We're unable to sign you in at this time. Please try again in a few minutes.
We were able to sign you in, but your subscription(s) could not be found. Please try again in a few minutes.
There may be a problem with your account. Please contact the AMA Service Center to resolve this issue.
Contact the AMA Service Center:
Telephone: 1 (800) 262-2350 or 1 (312) 670-7827  *   Email: subscriptions@jamanetwork.com
Error Message ......
Special Article | ONLINE FIRST

Airport Full-Body Screening What Is the Risk?

Pratik Mehta, BA; Rebecca Smith-Bindman, MD
Arch Intern Med. 2011;171(12):1112-1115. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.105.
Text Size: A A A
Published online


In the past year, the Transportation Security Administration has deployed full-body scanners in airports across the United States in response to heightened security needs. Several groups have opposed the scans, citing privacy concerns and fear of the radiation emitted by the backscatter x-ray scanners, 1 of the 2 types of machines in use. The radiation doses emitted by the scans are extremely small; the scans deliver an amount of radiation equivalent to 3 to 9 minutes of the radiation received through normal daily living. Furthermore, since flying itself increases exposure to ionizing radiation, the scan will contribute less than 1% of the dose a flyer will receive from exposure to cosmic rays at elevated altitudes. The estimation of cancer risks associated with these scans is difficult, but using the only available models, the risk would be extremely small, even among frequent flyers. We conclude that there is no significant threat of radiation from the scans.

Sign in

Purchase Options

• Buy this article
• Subscribe to the journal
• Rent this article ?

First Page Preview

View Large
First page PDF preview





Also Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
Please click the checkbox indicating that you have read the full article in order to submit your answers.
Your answers have been saved for later.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Submit a Comment
Clinical Professor
Posted on March 28, 2011
Zachary T. Bloomgarden, MD
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Conflict of Interest: None Declared
There have been a number of well-publicized incidents of radiation- emitting equipment malfunctioning, causing inadvertent but excessive irradiation of patients from both diagnostic and therapeutic equipment. Inasmuch as equipment in medical centers might be expected to undergo checking with higher frequency than that in airports, have measures been taken to assure the regular testing of radiation output of such scanners to avoid any potential for radiation in excess of the minimal amounts you cite?

Conflict of Interest: None declared
Atmosphere Provides Radiation Shielding
Posted on March 31, 2011
Michael S Rogers, MD
School of Medicine
Conflict of Interest: None Declared
The statement within the article "Naturally occurring radiation is higher at the altitudes of commercial air flights because of the greater proximity to the sun" is incorrect. The Sun is 150x10E6 Km away from the earth and commercial airliners cruise at altitudes of around 10 Km, where "closer" in this context only applies for airliners cruising within daylit areas of the earth, and for non-sunlit areas the airliners are in fact slightly further away from the sun than observers on the ground beneath them. In either case, the extra distance created by the airliner's cruising altitude is infinitesimal compared to the average Sun-Earth distance. The reason for the higher background ionizing radiation at higher altitudes is due to the increasingly rarefied atmosphere, which provides less scattering and absorption of incoming radiation from astronomical sources (including but not limited to the Sun).

Conflict of Interest: None declared
Why not collect data?
Posted on April 2, 2011
Thanos Halazonetis, DDS, PhD
University of Geneva
Conflict of Interest: None Declared
Let me first thank the authors for initiating a discussion of this issue in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. However, it seems that the authors did not collect any data of their own or do any experiments. It is very easy to measure the effects of the radiation of these scanners on cells using methodology that my laboratory and other laboratories have developed (for example, Schultz et al., Journal of Cell Biology 151: 1381- 90, 2000). The amount of DNA damage induced by these scanners could then be accurately determined. Why not do these studies?
Conflict of Interest: None declared
Submit a Comment


Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

6 Citations

Sign in

Purchase Options

• Buy this article
• Subscribe to the journal
• Rent this article ?

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.

See Also...
Articles Related By Topic
Related Collections
PubMed Articles