Flight risk and radiation

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Two days before Thanksgiving, and odds are you're traveling somewhere this week. If an airport is in your immediate future, you may have a new choice to make: full-body radiation scan or the dreaded pat-down.

Particularly if you've been exposed to a lot of radiation in your life (cancer survivors who've had radiation treatment, anyone who's had a lot of X-rays or CT scans, those whose jobs expose them to radiation), you might consider the pat-down.

Ionizing radiation is the best-established environmental cause of breast cancer. What's more, radiation's carcinogenic effects are cumulative over your lifetime. That cumulative concern led a pilots' union earlier this month to advise its members to skip the scan and go for the pat-down.

And while scanners may be considered "safe" by the federal government and FDA if correctly set up, monitored and used, the reality is that even X-ray equipment in health care settings, run by medical professionals, may be miscalibrated, malfunctioning or otherwise deliver an excessive dose of radiation accidentally.

Like the screening process itself, the choice to get a scan or a pat-down is a very personal decision. Whatever you decide is best for you this week, we wish you a happy, healthy Thanksgiving! May you and yours be well.

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