The variation in biological effectiveness of X-rays and gamma rays with energy.
The ICRP has attributed the same relative risk for all low-LET (linear energy transfer) radiations, including X and gamma radiations of all energies. However, very low energy X-rays are expected to be more biologically effective, per unit absorbed dose, than high energy X-rays or gamma rays due to the production of lower energy secondary electrons, with a correspondingly higher LET. This increase in relative biological effectiveness (RBE) is also seen experimentally for a range of biological end-points, however, a wide range of RBE values have been reported. The assessment of risks is particularly important due to the use of low energy X-rays for mammography screening. A review of the published data on the variation in biological effectiveness with energy is presented here.