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Mutat Res. 2013 Jul-Sep;753(1):50-67. doi: 10.1016/j.mrrev.2013.04.001. Epub 2013 May 4.

Evidence relevant to untargeted and transgenerational effects in the offspring of irradiated parents.

Author information

  • 1Radiation Epidemiology Branch, National Cancer Institute, 9609 Medical Center Drive, MSC 9778, Bethesda, MD 20892-9778, USA. Electronic address: mark.little@nih.gov.


In this article we review health effects in offspring of human populations exposed as a result of radiotherapy and some groups exposed to chemotherapy. We also assess risks in offspring of other radiation-exposed groups, in particular those of the Japanese atomic bomb survivors and occupationally and environmentally exposed groups. Experimental findings are also briefly surveyed. Animal and cellular studies tend to suggest that the irradiation of males, at least at high doses (mostly 1Gy and above), can lead to observable effects (including both genetic and epigenetic) in the somatic cells of their offspring over several generations that are not attributable to the inheritance of a simple mutation through the parental germline. However, studies of disease in the offspring of irradiated humans have not identified any effects on health. The available evidence therefore suggests that human health has not been significantly affected by transgenerational effects of radiation. It is possible that transgenerational effects are restricted to relatively short times post-exposure and in humans conception at short times after exposure is likely to be rare. Further research that may help resolve the apparent discrepancies between cellular/animal studies and studies of human health are outlined.

Published by Elsevier B.V.


Chemotherapy; Genetic effects; Minisatellites; Radiation; Radiotherapy; Transgenerational effects

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