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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2001 Feb 1;49(2):533-7.

Radiation-induced chromatid breaks as a predictor of breast cancer risk.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.



In in vivo models, radiation-induced genomic instability correlates with the risk of breast cancer development. In addition, homozygous mutations in tumor suppressor genes associated with breast cancer development adversely affects the processing and repair of radiation-induced DNA damage. We performed a case-control study to determine whether an assay measuring radiation-induced chromatid breaks correlated with the risk of having bilateral breast cancer.


Patients were prospectively studied on an institutional review board-approved protocol. We included only women with bilateral breast cancer as cases to obtain patients with a presumed genetic susceptibility for breast cancer. Controls were healthy women without a previous cancer history. A mutagen sensitivity assay using gamma-radiation was performed on lymphocytes obtained from 26 cases and 18 controls. One milliliter of whole blood was cultured with 9 mL of blood medium for 91 h and then treated with 125 cGy using a Cs-137 irradiator. Following an additional 4 h in culture, cells were treated with Colcemid for 1 h to arrest cells in metaphase. The number of chromatid breaks per cell was counted using a minimum of 50 metaphase spreads for each sample.


Cases had a statistically higher number of gamma-radiation-induced chromatid breaks per cell than controls, with mean values of 0.61 +/- 0.24 vs. 0.45 +/- 0.14, respectively (p = 0.034, Wilcoxon rank sum test). Using the 75th percentile value in the control group as a definition of radiation sensitivity, the radiation-sensitive individuals had a 2.83-fold increased odds ratio for breast cancer development compared with individuals who were not radiation sensitive (95% confidence intervals of 0.83 and 9.67).


These preliminary data suggest that sensitivity to radiation-induced chromatid breaks in lymphocytes correlates with the risk of bilateral breast cancer. Although the differences between cases and controls were statistically significant, the small sample size necessitates that this finding be validated in a larger study. More data are also needed to determine whether this sensitivity is limited to breast cancer patients with a genetic susceptibility for the disease or also applies to the general breast cancer population.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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