Variations in radiosensitivity among individuals: A potential impact on risk assessment?

Takamitsu A. Kato, Paul F. Wilson, Hatsumi Nagasaw, Yuanlin Peng, Michael M. Weil, John B. Little, Joel S. Bedford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


To have an impact on risk assessment for purposes of radiation protection recommendations, significantly broad variations in carcinogenic radiosensitivity would have to exist in significant proportions in the human population. Even if we knew all the genes where mutations would have major effects, individual genome sequencing does not seem useful, since we do not know all these genes, nor can we be certain of the phenotypic effect of polymorphisms discovered. Further, sequencing would not reveal epigenetic changes in gene expression. Another approach to develop phenotypic biomarkers for cells or tissues for which variations in radiation response may reflect the variations in carcinogenic sensitivity. To be useful, experimental evidence for such a correlation would be crucial, and it is also evident that correlations may be tissue or tumor specific. Some cellular markers are discussed that have shown promise in this regard. They include chromosome aberration induction and DNA repair assays that are sufficiently sensitive to measure after modest or low doses or dose rates. To this end we summarize here some of these assays and review the results of a number of experiments from our laboratory that show clear differences in DNA repair capacity reflected by γ-H2AX foci formation in cells from a high proportion (perhaps 1/3) of apparently normal individuals. A low dose-rate assay was used to amplify such differences. Another promising assay combines G 2 chromosomal radiosensitivity with the above γ-H2AX foci on mitotic chromosomes. There are other potentially useful assays as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)470-480
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Physics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Environmental assessment
  • National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements
  • Radiation protection
  • Risk assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Epidemiology


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