Radiation Therapy: What is it and How Does it Affect Cancer?

Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses intense energy beams to kill cancer cells. Learn more about how it works and its effects on cancer.

Radiation Therapy: What is it and How Does it Affect Cancer?

Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses intense energy beams to kill cancer cells. In most cases, radiation therapy uses x-rays, but protons or other types of energy can also be used. The term radiation therapy most often refers to external beam radiation therapy. This type of treatment is used to target and destroy cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy cells.

At low doses, radiation is used in x-rays to see inside the body, as is the case with x-rays of broken teeth or bones. Radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas. Long-term exposure to radon can cause lung cancer. Epidemiological studies provide the necessary data to quantify cancer risks based on dose and to establish radiation protection standards.

Leukemia and most solid cancers have been linked to radiation. Most solid cancer data are reasonably well described by linear dose response functions, although there may be a decrease in risks with very high doses. People exposed early in life have especially high relative risks for many types of cancer, and the risk of solid, radiation-related cancer seems to persist throughout life. Radiation therapy is one of the most common forms of cancer treatment. It uses high-energy x-rays to identify and kill cancer cells.

Radiation damages cancer cells and stops them from multiplying. Exposure to very high levels of radiation, such as being near an atomic explosion, can cause acute health effects, such as skin burns and acute radiation syndrome (“radiation sickness”). It can also cause long-term health effects, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Exposure to low levels of radiation found in the environment does not cause immediate health effects, but it contributes less to our overall cancer risk. The estimation of doses to inhabitants derived from the natural radiation source in the high background radiation area of Yangjiang, China has been studied by Boice and Miller (199).

They argue that the risk estimates of these studies in utero are uncertain and question whether or not there is an effect of radiation for cancers other than leukemia. The carcinogenic effects of ionizing radiation are late effects that occur with a probability that depends on the dose of radiation. There are tests that support TNL based on laboratory data and cancer studies in people exposed to radiation. Approximately 11% of solid cancers that occurred in survivors with doses of 0.005 Gy or more were attributed to radiation (Preston et al.). Pain caused by cancer that has spread to the bones can be treated with systemic radiation therapy medicines called radiopharmaceuticals. A schematic summary of documented findings on the late effect of bomb-released radiation on lifetime cancer mortality has been provided by researchers. People's radiation exposure has been increasing due to an increased amount of radiation use, for example, a non-threshold linear dose-response relationship (LNT) is used to describe the relationship between radiation dose and cancer onset. A unit used to measure the dose of radiation absorbed (the amount of radiation absorbed by an object or person) is called Gray (Gy).

Cancers that can develop as a result of exposure to radiation are indistinguishable from those that occur naturally or as a result of exposure to other chemical carcinogens. Better information is also needed on how radiation risk is modified by other exposures and characteristics of the host, which can help identify individuals who are at particularly high risk of radiation exposure. Key results of the study on cancer mortality and its related factors among inhabitants of the high background radiation area (HBRA) of Yangjiang, Guangdong have been reported. Another type of systemic radiation therapy, called targeted radionuclide therapy, is used to treat some patients who have advanced prostate cancer or gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (GEP-NET).