Do Full-Body Scanners Pose Cancer Risk?

Could the full-body scanners proposed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) give you cancer?

CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton says the risk is very low.

A back scanner -- one of the types the TSA hopes to install at airports -- has only one percent of the radiation you would get in a dental X-ray, according to Ashton.

"Early Show" co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez said, "That certainly doesn't sound like a big deal -- especially for somebody who doesn't travel very much."

Ashton said many radiation experts are now weighing in, finding that even if a billion people were scanned using a back scanner, it could result in 10 additional cancer deaths per year.

"If you're one of those 10, obviously that's going to be 10 too many," Ashton said, adding, "but we have to remember that, every time you get on a plane, you are, in fact, exposed to ionizing radiation just when you go up to 30,000 feet."

A new CBS poll shows 74 percent of Americans are in favor of putting these machines in airports.

CBS News Poll on Body Scans

But do the risks outweigh the benefits?

"That's the big question," Ashton said. "You always have to weigh both the risks and benefits. The thinking is that, in terms of a security screening technique, it's very, very effective, and we may in fact be at the time and point that we need to employ those techniques. But, again, the name of the game in medicine, in preventative health is minimizing that risk. So people like pregnant women (and) children, need to be particularly careful."
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