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Of X rays, viruses, and cooked meat

7:53pm, February 8, 2005

The psychology of risk is a tricky business. That's why the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) in College Park, Md., worries that many people might react with undue alarm to the Jan. 31 announcement by the government that the National Toxicology Program (NTP) has added ionizing radiation, including X rays and neutrons, to its list of human carcinogens. "It would be a tragedy if patients did not have needed exams because of fears raised by the report," says AAPM Board Chairman G. Donald Frey of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

To head off such reactions, the NTP's new Report on Carcinogens points out that many of the listed carcinogens, including some drugs, offer society substantial benefits and urges people not to eschew such agents without consulting a doctor or other expert.

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