In this article we present a mammography unit design using a parametric x-radiation (PXR) source. We show that PXR can provide a fanned quasimonochromatic x-ray beam that can be used to obtain mammography images of higher contrast and lower dose than those obtained from a conventional x-ray system. Changing the Bragg angle of the PXR crystal with respect to the electron beam changes the photon energy, improves image quality, and minimizes dose. Monte Carlo computer simulations are given that show that the PXR source with a 5% bandwidth gives a figure of merit close to that of the ideal monoenergetic source and significantly higher than that of the filtered-x-ray-tube sources. In order to simultaneously obtain adequate flux and achieve bandwidths below 5%, we utilized an electron-beam energy of 35 MeV and an average current of 300 μA to 1 mA for 3 s (depending upon breast thickness and density). Slits after the PX radiator are used to define both the spatial distribution and the spectral bandwidth of the x-ray beam, which is scanned over the breast in approximately 3 s. A graphite crystal C (002) in the Laue geometry is utilized as the PX radiator. Lower electron-beam currents might be possible as higher efficiency PX or hybrid radiators become available. © 2001 American Institute of Physics.