Abstract This work is devoted to solving the radially symmetric backward heat conduction problem, starting from the final temperature distribution. The problem is ill-posed: the solution (if it exists) does not depend continuously on the given data. A modified Tikhonov regularization method is proposed for solving this inverse problem. A quite sharp estimate of the error between the approximate solution and the exact solution is obtained with a suitable choice of regularization parameter. A numerical example is presented to verify the efficiency and accuracy of the method.