Excess leukemias have occurred after partial-body radiotherapy for cervical cancer and benign gynecological disease (BGD). However, the level of risk is nearly the same in both groups, about twofold, despite a tenfold difference in average dose to active bone marrow (8 Gy vs 0.7 Gy, respectively). High-dose cell killing has been postulated as one explanation for this apparent inconsistency. To examine whether chromosome aberration rates observed in lymphocytes many years after exposure might serve as population markers of cancer risk, blood samples were taken from 60 women treated for BGD (34 with radiation) and cytogenetic data compared with previous results from 96 women irradiated for cervical cancer. Remarkably, the rate of stable aberrations, which reflects nonlethal damage in surviving stem cells, was only slightly higher among the cancer patients. Thus the lower-dose regimens to treat benign disorders resulted in much higher aberration yields per unit dose than those for cervical cancer. Assuming that the fraction of cytogenetically aberrant stem cells that survive radiotherapy contributes to the leukemogenic process, these data are then consistent with the epidemiological observations of comparable overall leukemia risks seen in these two irradiated populations. Accordingly, for patient populations given partial-body radiotherapy, stable aberrations at a long time after exposure appear to serve as biomarkers of effective risk rather than as biomarkers of radiation dose received.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging