Precursor B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia
Image: Wikimedia Commons, VashiDonsk
Because it packs enough energy to expulse electrons from atoms and molecules, ionizing radiation can directly damage biomolecules such as DNA, breaking chemical bonds and inducing single and double-strand breaks. When this damage is not efficiently fixed by the DNA-repair machinery, mutations arise: Mutations in somatic cells can lead to cancer, and in germ line cells, genetic defects can be transmitted to offspring. Indeed, radiation from Chernobyl and the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in the middle of last century has been linked to a wide variety of cancers. The question is, are the workers at Japan's Fukushima site being exposed to levels of radiation that pose a serious genetic risk?Cancer risksDespite several long-term studies of the atomic bomb survivors in Japan, radiotherapy patients, and people affected by the Chernobyl disaster -- which have linked exposure to ionizing radiation...
-- Cristina LuiggiHereditary effects-- Megan Scudellari

N Engl J Med
Cancer Res

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?