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Uses of radioactivity in medicine Introduction Radiation is a potent cause of cancer Radiation causes changes in DNA including breaks in the chromosomes the tiny structures in cells that contain DNA and chromosome transpositionsthe exchange of chromosomal material between two chromosomes Radiation causes a normal cell to slowly become cancerous over a period of years During this period the cell may be more susceptible to other cancer-causing factors The most common sources of radiation include the ultraviolet B rays of the sun which cause over 90 percent of all skin cancers and radon gas which is emitted from the earth and seeps into buildingssometimes collecting in high levels Breathing high levels of radon gas for long periods of time may cause lung cancer However when used correctly radiation can help to remove or reduce the effects of existing cancers Treatment Radiation therapy uses powerful x-rays produced when a beam of electrons strikes a heavy-metal target or gamma rays emitted by radioactive decay to destroy cancerous tissue Tumors easily reached with a source of radiationeither a beam of radiation or through tiny radioactive implantsmay be cured by radiation therapy Radiation therapy is useful when a tumor is located where it cannot be surgically removed because surgery would damage vital adjacent tissue or because a tumor has begun to grow in adjacent tissues or organs that cannot be removed Radiation therapy is also used to reduce the effects of cancer especially of metastatic tumors Radiation can also be used before surgery to sterilize tumor cells and prevent them from spreading to other parts of the body during surgery Radiation may shrink the tumor and make surgery easier or shrink an inoperable tumor to an operable size For other tumors radiation may be used following surgery New techniques in radiation therapy now allow tumors to be precisely targeted by a beam of radiation eliminating damage to healthy surrounding tissues These techniques are known as
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