Surgeons may be adapting to ‘safe’ X-ray doses

Jessica Hamzelou

Hospital workers exposed regularly to "safe" levels of X-rays have experienced changes at the cellular level that might prove beneficial.

Gian Luigi Russo and colleagues at Italy’s National Research Council took blood samples from 10 cardiologists who are exposed to 4 millisieverts of radiation per year from X-ray-guided surgery. Those levels are slightly above average natural levels but well within the US Code of Federal Regulation’s safe limit of 50 millisieverts per year.

Russo’s team found that the blood contained levels of hydrogen peroxide – a marker of cell damage – three times higher than expected. White blood cells in the samples also showed a marker that suggested they were more susceptible to death. On the flip side, the blood also contained twice the normal level of glutathione, an antioxidant that protects cells.

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