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There are obvious benefits to health from medical uses of radiation, in x-ray diagnostics, interventional radiology, nuclear medicine, and radiotherapy. However, there are well-established risks from high doses of radiation (radiotherapy, interventional radiology), particularly if improperly applied, and possible deleterious effects from small radiation doses (such as those used in diagnostics). For assessment of the risk, a quantitative measure of exposure is a necessary prerequisite; thus, dosimetric quantities are explained and defined (absorbed dose, effective dose) and basic facts are presented on mechanisms of action of ionising radiations on living matter. Data on the magnitude of threshold doses for cell killing effects are presented, and an assessment is made of the probability with which cancers and hereditary mutations may be induced by doses of various magnitudes, most likely without a threshold dose (below which no effect would obtain). Information is given on strategies to minimise doses and therefore the risk from diagnostic uses of radiation. In addition, problems related to special protection of the embryo and fetus in the course of diagnostic and therapeutic uses of radiation are presented and practical solutions are recommended. A brief report concerning Diagnostic Reference Levels in Medical Imaging; Review and Additional Advice, is also included.