Nuclear power plant workers are exposed to ionizing radiation at relatively low doses and for prolonged periods of time. To investigate the extent of genetic damage in these workers, a group of 133 nuclear power plant workers and 39 healthy controls were compared using the cytokinesis-block micronucleus assay. The frequency of micronuclei was significantly increased in peripheral lymphocytes of nuclear power plant workers (20.5 ± 9.7% compared to 13.7 ± 5.9%). A significant dose-response relationship was observed between micronucleus (MN) frequency and both the accumulated dose and the duration of employment (P <0.01 for both variables after adjusting for age, gender and cigarette smoking) with an evident leveling off for exposures over 200 mSv. Accumulated dose and duration of employment were significantly correlated but exerted independent effects on MN frequency. For non-occupational parameters, age was significantly associated with the frequency of micronuclei, while gender was not. Smoking habit showed no overall effect, whereas increased chromosome damage was evident in smokers of more than 20 cigarettes per day. In conclusion, a dose-related association between MN frequency and exposure to ionizing radiation was evident in nuclear power plant workers, encouraging the application of the cytokinesis-block micronucleus assay in biomonitoring studies of human populations with prolonged exposure to ionizing radiation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging