Genomic damage in children accidentally exposed to ionizing radiation: A review of the literature

A. Fucic, G. Brunborg, R. Lasan, D. Jezek, L. E. Knudsen, D. F. Merlo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During the last decade, our knowledge of the mechanisms by which children respond to exposures to physical and chemical agents present in the environment, has significantly increased. Results of recent projects and programmes focused on children's health underline a specific vulnerability of children to environmental genotoxicants. Environmental research on children predominantly investigates the health effects of air pollution while effects from radiation exposure deserve more attention. The main sources of knowledge on genome damage of children exposed to radiation are studies performed after the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident in 1986. The present review presents and discusses data collected from papers analyzing genome damage in children environmentally exposed to ionizing radiation. Overall, the evidence from the studies conducted following the Chernobyl accident, nuclear tests, environmental radiation pollution and indoor accidental contamination reveals consistently increased chromosome aberration and micronuclei frequency in exposed than in referent children. Future research in this area should be focused on studies providing information on: (a) effects on children caused by low doses of radiation; (b) effects on children from combined exposure to low doses of radiation and chemical agents from food, water and air; and (c) specific effects from exposure during early childhood (radioisotopes from water, radon in homes). Special consideration should also be given to a possible impact of a radiochemical environment to the development of an adaptive response for genomic damage. Interactive databases should be developed to provide integration of cytogenetic data, childhood cancer registry data and information on environmental contamination. The overall aim is to introduce timely and efficient preventive measures, by means of a better knowledge of the early and delayed health effects in children resulting from radiation exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-123
Number of pages13
JournalMutation Research - Reviews in Mutation Research
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008


  • Chernobyl
  • Child
  • Chromosome aberration assay
  • Environment
  • Ionizing radiation
  • Micronucleus assay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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