An estimated 4–5 million CT scans are performed in the USA every year to investigate nephrourological diseases such as urinary stones and renal masses. Despite the clinical benefits of CT imaging, concerns remain regarding the potential risks associated with exposure to ionizing radiation. To assess the potential risk of harmful biological effects from exposure to ionizing radiation, understanding the mechanisms by which radiation damage and repair occur is essential. Although radiation level and cancer risk follow a linear association at high doses, no strong relationship is apparent below 100 mSv, the doses used in diagnostic imaging. Furthermore, the small theoretical increase in risk of cancer incidence must be considered in the context of the clinical benefit derived from a medically indicated CT and the likelihood of cancer occurrence in the general population. Elimination of unnecessary imaging is the most important method to reduce imaging-related radiation; however, technical aspects of medically justified imaging should also be optimized, such that the required diagnostic information is retained while minimizing the dose of radiation. Despite intensive study, evidence to prove an increased cancer risk associated with radiation doses below ~100 mSv is lacking; however, concerns about ionizing radiation in medical imaging remain and can affect patient care. Overall, the principles of justification and optimization must remain the basis of clinical decision-making regarding the use of ionizing radiation in medicine.
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