New data from NASA has found that astronauts traveling to Mars are exposed to high radiation, posing risks for cancer and other harms to their bodies.

Researchers measured high levels of radiation using Curiosity's Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD). Their findings appeared in the current issue of the journal Science and determined that the levels of exposure could surpass the radiation limit of NASA astronauts during their careers.

"In terms of accumulated dose, it's like getting a whole-body CT scan once every five or six days," said Cary Zeitlin, lead author of the study and principal scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "Understanding the radiation environment inside a spacecraft carrying humans to Mars or other deep space destinations is critical for planning future crewed missions."

During the rover's 253-day journey, it detected 1.8 thousandths of a sievert per day. A round trip to Mars, for example, would expose an astronaut to two-thirds of a sievert and would increase his or her cancer risk from 21 to 24 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute.

While the radiation scare doesn't seem to deter NASA from stopping missions to Mars, Curiosity's recent collection could help researchers develop better radiation-blocking shields and thrust mechanics to shorten the timespan of missions, according to The New York Times.

"As this nation strives to reach an asteroid and Mars in our lifetimes, we're working to solve every puzzle nature poses to keep astronauts safe so they can explore the unknown and return home," said William Gerstenmaier, associate administer for human exploration and operations in Washington for NASA. "We learn more about the human body's ability to adapt to space every day aboard the International Space Station. As we build the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket to carry and shelter us in deep space, we'll continue to make the advances we need in life sciences to reduce risks for our explorers. Curiosity's RAD instrument is giving us critical data we need so that we humans, like the rover, can dare might things to reach the Red Planet."

The NASA space program has marked the 2030s as the next time it will send astronauts to Mars.

Source: Zeitlin C, Hassler DM, Cucinotta FA, et al. Measurements of energetic particle radiation in transit to Mars on the Mars Science Laboratory. Science. 2013.