• Question: Why are ex-rays bad for your body and cause cancer?

    Asked by awstork to Claire, Elizabeth, Manolis, Mark, Zach on 14 Mar 2014.
    • Photo: Mark Wallace

      Mark Wallace answered on 14 Mar 2014:

      You can think of light as if it were Very small particles (called photons). Light has different colours because these particles have different energies. X-rays are just another type of light, just one that your eyes can’t see. (Infrared light might be another one you have heard of). X ray particles carry a lot of energy, that’s why we can use them to see through your body, but that’s also what can make them dangerous if not used carefully.

    • Photo: Zach Dixon

      Zach Dixon answered on 14 Mar 2014:

      To follow on from what Mark said, X-rays can be harmful, but we can handle them in small amounts.

      X-rays can cause damage to our DNA (the instructions that tell our cells how to behave) – and in some cases this can lead to the cells growing out of control, which is what cancer is.

      But we are lucky because we have some great systems in place to repair damage to our DNA. So most often when DNA in a cell gets damaged it is fixed!

      In short, we can handle exposure to X-rays, but not in large amounts and not too frequently! (That’s why people who give X-rays at the hospital leave the room and you don’t need to!)