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Int J Radiat Biol. 2007 Jan;83(1):1-12.

Is chromosome radiosensitivity and apoptotic response to irradiation correlated with cancer susceptibility?

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  • 1Genetics Centre, Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, London.



Individuals who have been treated for breast cancer have been reported to have increased lymphocyte chromosomal sensitivity to ionizing radiation and a significantly lower apoptotic response to irradiation compared to controls. We set out to test these findings using a substantial number of cases sampled before treatment (which could alter the parameters measured), compared to age-matched controls with normal mammograms.


We used the G2 chromosome breakage, and apoptotic response assays of peripheral blood lymphocytes to ionizing radiation to compare 211 unselected newly diagnosed and untreated breast cancer patients, with 170 age, sex and ethnically matched controls.


We found no significant differences between breast cancer patients and their matched controls in the G2 assay or apoptotic response. However, there was some evidence that both cases and controls with a strong family history of breast cancer had higher radiosensitivity than those without.


This is the largest and best controlled study of its kind, but it has not replicated previous reports of differences between chromosome breakage or apoptotic response in breast cancer cases vs. controls. However there was a suggestion of increased radiosensitivity in patients with a strong family history, which may indicate a heritable cancer susceptibility trait, warranting further study.

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