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Experientia. 1989 Jan 15;45(1):69-77.

Radiation embryology.

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  • 1Strahlenbiologisches Institut, Universit├Ąt Z├╝rich, Switzerland.


Prenatal development, characterized by intensive cell proliferation, cell differentiation and cell migration, shows a high radiosensitivity. Therefore, radiation exposure of embryos and fetuses is of great concern for radiological protection and human health. Irradiation during gestation can cause death, growth disorders, malformations, functional impairment and malignant diseases in childhood. These effects are strongly dependent on the developmental stage at exposure and on the radiation dose. The first trimester of pregnancy is regarded as the period with the highest risk for malformation and cancer induction. The developing nervous system shows a special susceptibility to ionizing radiation over a long period and is therefore of great significance for risk estimation. Knowledge about radiation effects on prenatal development has been derived from animal experimentation and from the exposure of human embryos. There is evidence that doses between 1 and 10 cGy may lead to developmental anomalies and that the radiation response can be modified by additional factors.

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