Aspects of DNA Damage from Internal Radionuclides

By Christopher Busby, Jacobs University, Bremen, Germany

Christopher Busby (2013). Aspects of DNA Damage from Internal Radionuclides, New Research Directions in DNA Repair, Prof. Clark Chen (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-51-1114-6, InTech, DOI: 10.5772/53942. Available from:

1. Introduction

“In this chapter, there is insufficient space to exhaustively review the research which has been carried out on internal radionuclide effects. I hope only to highlight evidence which shows that internal radionuclides cannot be assessed by the current radiation risk model, and to suggest some research directions that may enable a new model to be developed, one which more accurately quantifies the real effects of such exposures. The biological effects of exposure to ionizing radiation have been studied extensively in the last 70 years and yet very little effort has gone into examining the health effects of exposure to internal incorporated radionuclides. This is curious, since the biosphere has been increasingly contaminated with novel man-made radioactive versions of naturally occurring elements which living creatures have adapted to over evolutionary timescales, and intuition might suggest that these substances could represent a significant hazard to health, one not easily or accurately modelled by analogy with external photon radiation (X-rays and gamma rays).

The question of the health effects of internal radionuclide exposures began to be asked in the early 1950s when there was widespread fallout contamination of food and milk from atmospheric nuclear tests. It quickly became the subject of disagreements between two committees of the newly formed International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP)[1]. The questions of the equivalence of internal and external radiation exposure, which were the basis of these disagreements, have still not been resolved. In the West, up to very recently, the whole spectrum of health effects from internal incorporated radionuclides has focused on animal studies of Radium, Plutonium and Strontium-90 and human retrospective studies of those individuals exposed to Radium-226 and Thorium-232 in the contrast medium “Thorotrast”. These studies suffer from a number of problems which will be discussed.”

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