Radiation and Spiderman

So pleased to have back our radiology expert Shannon Moore Redmon.

Welcome back, Shannon!

When in elementary school, our teacher rewarded good behavior with an episode of Spiderman. The thought of a once nerdy boy turned superhero, gave all the kids in class grand ideas of swinging from tall buildings and capturing bad guys with web like nets. Thankfully, no one ran out and searched for spiders to bite them.

However, when humans are truly exposed to radiation, we do not acquire superpowers like our wonderful Spidey, but overdoses of radiation lead to a variety of sickening symptoms or cancer, depending on the size of the dose.

Peter Parker’s symptoms do not demonstrate the real effects of radiation exposure.

  • Peter is bitten by a radioactive spider.

First, a radioactive spider does not contain the ability to provide humans with special powers. Peter’s hand develops a large boil on the area of the bite, but instead of going to the hospital, the teenager goes home and lies down.

This is science fiction, but wouldn’t a normal teenager at least tell the grownups living in the same house of his insect bite and go see a doctor? My boys would.

  • Peter feels the results of the radiation in his body and his DNA changes.

Some real world medical tests use radioisotopes or expose patients to radiation, but the small dosage rarely manifests into any biological changes. We receive more radiation exposure from our televisions, microwaves and cell phones we use every day then we do from medical tests.

Nuclear Medicine is a radiological modality where small doses of radioisotopes are given to patients to discover diseased areas within the body. These scans can detect cancers, non-functioning organs or other medical conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Fluoroscopy, another radiology modality, uses live x-ray beams to study the stomach and intestines. Technologists and radiologists must protect themselves with lead aprons, gloves, and thyroid shields. They also wear dosimeter badges to record their exposure.

  • Peter wakes up no longer needing glasses and his body has evolved into a buffed-up physique.

If only radiation exposure was that transformative. We’d all be rushing to our local x-ray departments for the latest dose of tummy tightening effects.

Larger doses of radiation are destructive, but in the case of a cancer patient, the damaging exposure can be helpful. Medical facilities use therapeutic radiation to attack malignant tumors, shrinking or eliminating them.

According to the NCBI, there are two types of radiation exposure, acute and late onset disorder. If you want your character to die quickly, then review the following symptoms:

Acute disorder:

Alopecia – hair loss
Skin erythema – redness of skin
Hematopoietic damage – destruction of blood cells
Gastrointestinal damage
Central Nervous damage

Late onset disorder:

Non-cancer disease
Genetic effects

So, for now, Spiderman fan’s need to steer clear of those radioactive insects. But if your character has a medical condition that requires a dose of radiation, the positive effects can be as life changing as Spiderman’s.


Shannon Moore Redmon writes romantic suspense stories, to entertain and share the gospel truth of Jesus Christ. Her stories dive into the healthcare environment where Shannon holds over twenty years of experience as a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer. Her extensive work experience includes Radiology, Obstetrics/Gynecology and Vascular Surgery.

As the former Education Manager for GE Healthcare, she developed her medical professional network across the country. Today, Shannon teaches ultrasound at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and utilizes many resources to provide accurate healthcare research for authors requesting her services.

She is a member of the ACFW and Blue Ridge Mountain Writer’s Group. Shannon is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. She lives and drinks too much coffee in North Carolina with her husband, two boys and her white foo-foo dog, Sophie.

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