Radiation Carcinogenesis

  • J. E. Coggle


The biological effects of radiations are caused by the absorption of the radiation energy in cells and tissues and by the distribution of that energy. These interactions can arise either from external radiation sources outside the tissues or from internal contamination by radioactive substances. If radiations pass through tissues without leaving any energy behind they have no biological effect. The absorption of thermal radiation (heat) energy can cause a detectable rise in body temperature whereas a dose of ionising radiation sufficient to kill a human cannot be detected by the body because it will not increase its temperature by more than 0.001°C. Ionising radiations are composed of photons (X- and γ-rays) or particles (electrons, neutrons, protons, etc.) with sufficient energy to cause ionisation, that is, to remove orbital electrons from the atoms of the material through which the radiation is travelling. The absorption of radiation energy is a random process and so in a complex system such as a mammalian tissue, which is 70–90 per cent water, most of the energy will be involved in ionisation and excitation of water molecules. This radiation splitting (radiolysis) of water produces chemical species known as free radicals and it is these which are primarily responsible, via a series of interactions, for the biochemical and, ultimately, the biological harmfulness of ionising radiation.


Linear Energy Transfer Relative Biological Effective Cancer Induction Somatic Mutation Theory Thorium Oxide 
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Further Reading

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  3. BOICE, J.D. & Fraumeni, J.F. (eds) (1984) Radiation Carcinogenesis: Epidemiology and Biological Significance, Raven Press, New York (ISBN 0–89004–907–6)Google Scholar
  4. COHEN, B.L. (1980) The cancer risk from low-level radiation. Health Phys.,39 (4), 649–78Google Scholar
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  6. UNSCEAR (1977) United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. Report to the General Assembly Sources and Effects of Ionizing Radiation. UN. E.77.IX.1, United Nations, New York Annex G. Radiation carcinogenesis in man, pp. 361–423 Annex I. Experimental radiation carcinogenesis, pp. 565–654Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Peter B. Farmer and John M. Walker 1985

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  • J. E. Coggle

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