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Genetic effects of radiation

Results will help understanding of radiation exposure in cancer survivors and their children

University of Oklahoma


IMAGE: Johnathan Russell holds his 3-year-old daughter Maddison while talking to reporters at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center about his childhood cancer and his fear that radiation treatment would... view more

Credit: The Oklahoman

OKLAHOMA CITY - Researchers at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center are helping to lead a massive international study on the possible genetic effects of radiation and cancer drug exposures on future generations. The study's principal investigators are meeting this week at the OU Health Sciences Center to discuss their recent findings, which will be presented at an upcoming meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics.

The study, which combines cancer survivors in the United States and Scandinavia, is looking at potential genetic consequences of reproductive organs exposed to curative therapy by drugs or radiation. Scientists want to determine whether radiation and chemotherapy before conception increases the occurrence of birth defects, stillbirths and specific conditions such as Down syndrome. They also want to know if radiation treatment leads to cancer or DNA damage in the patients' offspring. It is the first and largest study of its kind.

In Denmark and Finland, researchers have been able to identify all cancer survivors since 1943 and 1952, respectively, who had cancer before age 35. They also documented the nearly 20,000 children produced by the survivors. Scientists now want to compare their findings with patients in the United States.

"So far, the results have been encouraging," said John J. Mulvihill, M.D., one of the leaders of the study and a renowned geneticist at the OU College of Medicine and the OU Cancer Institute. "This study is important for many reasons, but most notably for cancer survivors who need reassurances that their children will not be affected by their chemotherapy and radiation treatment. This research also will help families in Hiroshima and Chernobyl where residents were exposed to high levels of radiation as children and young adults."


In addition to the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, seven top cancer research centers worldwide are participating in the study.

For more information on the Genetic Consequences of Cancer Treatment Study, go online to

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