Cytogenetic Bases for Risk Inference

  • Michael A. Bender
Part of the Environmental Science Research book series (ESRH, volume 21)


With the recent publicity given a cytogenetic study of residents of the Love Canal area, there seems little need to point out that cytogenetics does indeed provide a basis for risk inference. Just what may be inferred, however, and from just what sorts of cytogenetic evidence, is not always so clear. If anything emerged from the intense debate of recent weeks, it is that the observation of chromosomal abnormalities in peripheral blood lymphocytes, as in the first study of 36 Love Canal residents, does not in itself indicate any ill health; like many other clinical observations it is simply a sign, not an illness. Though one can reasonably infer increased risk from such a sign, the inference is in the probability, not in any way the certainty, of future ill health, any more than riding a motorcycle, with its attendent increased risk of traumatic injury, means that one must sooner or later suffer an accident. It is furthermore important to recognize that there is no such thing as zero risk; life guarantees death, and ultimately we must all suffer ill health. Thus any increase in the risk of ill health must be considered in relation to the natural risk in the absence of whatever factor increased the risk.


Chromosomal Aberration Sister Chromatid Exchange Maleic Hydrazide Acentric Fragment Type Aberration 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael A. Bender
    • 1
  1. 1.Medical DepartmentBrookhaven National LaboratoryUptonUSA

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