Radiologists Do Not Face Elevated Risk of Radiation-related Mortality

No evidence of excess radiation-related mortality was found in U.S. radiologists who graduated from medical school after 1940, possibly due to increased radiation protection and/or lifestyle changes, according to new Radiology research.

Amy Berrington de González, DPhil., chief of the Radiation Epidemiology Branch at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Bethesda, Md., and colleagues, used the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile to construct a cohort of 43,763 radiologists and 64,990 psychiatrists (control group) who graduated from medical school between 1916 and 2006. Researchers sought to assess whether dif­ferences between radiologists and psychiatrists are con­sistent with known risks of radiation exposure and the changes in radiation exposure to radiologists over time.

Vital status was obtained from record linkages with the Social Security Administration and commercial databases and cause of death was obtained from the National Death Index.

In the radiologists who graduated before 1940, researchers discovered an increased risk of mortality from leukemia and/or myelodysplastic syndrome that was likely related to occupational radiation exposure. Results also showed an increased mortality from melanoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and cerebrovascular disease in those who graduated before 1940, and this is possibly due to occupational radiation exposure.

“There have been dramatic improvements in radiation protection since the earliest radiologists started practicing, including general lead shielding of equipment, personal use of lead aprons and glasses, and use of room shields,” the authors write.

Web Extras

  • Access the study, "Long-term Mortality in 43,763 U.S. Radiologists Compared with 64,990 U.S. Psychiatrists" at