Genes Determine People’s Susceptibility to Radiation

“Acceptable” Radiation Standards Don’t Take Into Account the Vulnerability of Children … Or Some Adults

Children are much more vulnerable to radiation than full-grown adults.

And yet standards for “acceptable” levels of radiation exposure are based on the ridiculous assumption that everyone is a healthy man in his 20s … and that radioactive particles ingested into the body cause no more damage than radiation hitting the outside of the body.

Similarly, there is a lot of variation between adults in terms of susceptibility to radiation.

For example, Howard Hughes Medical Institute – the second-best endowed medical research foundation in the world – reported in 2009:

Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers have identified a group of genes that influence a person’s sensitivity to radiation.


The scientists used microarrays designed to analyze the activity of more than 10,000 genes to take snapshots of gene expression in the cells prior to radiation exposure, and at two and six hours after exposure. After those studies, the researchers narrowed their focus to 3,280 genes whose expression went up or down by at least 50 percent.

Among those genes, some were already known to have roles in repairing DNA damage, regulating the cell cycle, or apoptosis—the programmed death of unneeded or damaged cells.

Each pattern of gene expression change in an individual’s cells represented an inborn “phenotype,” indicating sensitivity to radiation.


The radiation-response genes the team identified had been catalogued in the Human Genome Project, so their locations within the genome were known. But the activity of each gene was controlled by a switch-like bit of regulatory DNA. Variations in these regulatory sequences accounted for the differences in radiation response from one person to another.

The Health Protection Agency – part of Public Health England – reported last year:

Evidence suggests that the risk of developing cancer or tissue damage after exposure to ionising radiation varies among people because of genetic and lifestyle factors, according the Health Protection Agency’s independent Advisory Group on Ionising Radiation (AGIR).

Indeed, the most widely-accepted and prestigious publication on radiation – the U.S. National Academy of Science’s 2006 report on Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: BEIR VII Phase 2 – includes an 11-page discussion on genetic vulnerability to radiation, concluding: 

At the level of whole populations it is feasible that certain inherited combinations of common low-penetrance genes can result in the presence of subpopulations having significantly different susceptibilities to spontaneous and radiation-associated cancer.


The key issue is … the extent to which genetic distortion of the distribution of this risk might lead to underprotection of an appreciable fraction of the population.

While the commonly-accepted, mainstream scientific consensus is that even low levels of radiation can cause cancer and other injury, governments world-wide have reacted to the Fukushima crisis by raising “acceptable” radiation levels. And see this.

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