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Human sensitivity to radiation

15th March 2013

The Health Protection Agency has issued a new report on human sensitivity to radiation.

The HPA’s independent Advisory Group on Ionising Radiation (AGIR) says that evidence suggests that the risk of developing cancer or tissue damage after exposure to ionising radiation varies among people because of genetic and lifestyle factors.

The group’s report says, in particular, that there is strong evidence that smoking substantially increases the risk of developing lung cancer after exposure to ionising radiation.

It added that this was particularly marked in people exposed to radon gas.

Genetic factors could also affect the way people react to ionising radiation, however, the HPA suggests that further research is still needed in this area to confirm this and identify all the genes responsible.

The findings, says the HPA, could have implications for advice given to smokers who undergo radiotherapy.

AGIR chairman Professor Bryn Bridges said: “Identification and understanding of the various factors that contribute to radiosensitivity is improving but remains incomplete. There is currently no simple predictive test of individual radiosensitivity, although such tests may be available in the future.”

He added that now is the right time to consider how knowledge of lifestyle factors such as smoking might be incorporated into occupational, medical and public radiation protection.

 

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