The steady increase in the number of radiologic procedures being performed is undeniably having a beneficial impact on healthcare. However, it is also becoming common practice to quantify the health detriment from radiation exposure by calculating the number of cancer-related deaths inferred from the effective dose delivered to a given patient population. The inference of a certain number of expected deaths from the effective dose is to be discouraged, but it remains important as a means of raising professional awareness of the danger associated with ionizing radiation. The risk associated with a radiologic examination appears to be rather low compared with the natural risk. However, any added risk, no matter how small, is unacceptable if it does not benefit the patient. The concept of diagnostic reference levels should be used to reduce variations in practice among institutions and to promote optimal dose indicator ranges for specific imaging protocols. In general, the basic principles of radiation protection (eg, justification and optimization of a procedure) need to be respected to help counteract the unjustified explosion in the number of procedures being performed.