Are Full Body Scanners a Cancer Risk?

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A Columbia University scientist is questioning whether full body scanners used to screen airline passengers may pose a cancer risk.

Dr. David Brenner, chief of the center for radiological research at New York's Columbia University, tells the Daily Mail of London that radiation from the scanners has been "underestimated."

He questions whether the machines might pose a risk for skin cancer in certain groups including children.

Brenner tells the London Telegraph that while an individual's risk is "very low," there is statistically cause for concern.

"If all 800 million people who use airports every year were screened with X-rays then the very small individual risk multiplied by the large number of screened people might imply a potential public health or societal risk," Brenner says. "The population risk has the potential to be significant."

Brenner tells the Australian newspaper the Herald Sun that skin around the head and neck may be most at risk. He says "it would be prudent" for security officials to stop scanning those areas, especially since it would be difficult to hide any weapons there.

He urges more tests on the body scanning machines to see how they affect more radiation-sensitive groups, including children.

British Civil Aviation authorities respond in the Mail that the radiation received in the scanning process is equivalent to the two minutes of radiation passengers receive on a transatlantic flight.

For more AOL Travel News on body scanners click here.

Photo courtesy of Transportation Security Administration
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