Diagnostic X-rays provide 14% of the annual radiation exposure to the general population.
However, although they are of considerable benefit, their use involves a small risk of cancer development.
In this study, researchers from England estimated the risk of cancer development from diagnostic X-ray exposure.
The team based their estimate on the annual number of diagnostic X-rays undertaken in the 15 developed countries.
The researchers combined data on the frequency of diagnostic X-ray use, and estimated radiation doses from X-rays to individual body organs. The team developed risk models, based Japanese atomic bomb survivors.
In the United Kingdom, the research team found that approximately 0.6% of the cumulative risk of cancer to age 75 years could be attributed to diagnostic X-rays.
|In Japan the risk of cancer was greater than 3%.|
This is equivalent to 700 cases of cancer per year.
The team calculated that in 13 of the other countries studied, the risk ranged from 0.6% to 1.8%.
In Japan, a country which has the highest estimated annual exposure frequency in the world, the risk was greater than 3%.
Drs Amy Berrington de González and Sarah Darby concluded, "We provide detailed estimates of the cancer risk from diagnostic X-rays".
"The calculations involved a number of assumptions and so are inevitably subject to considerable uncertainty".
"The possibility that we have overestimated the risks cannot be ruled out, but that we have underestimated them substantially seems unlikely.