The relative risk of breast cancer is very high among women who were exposed to ionizing radiation during or before puberty. In the current studies, the surviving fractions of clonogenic mammary cells of groups of virgin rats were estimated after single exposures to137 Cs γ rays at intervals from 1 to 12 weeks after birth. The radiosensitivity of clonogens from prepubertal rats was high and changed with the onset of puberty at between 4 and 6 weeks of age. By this time, the increase in the size of the clonogenic cell subpopulation was slowing and differentiation of terminal mammary end buds and alveolar structures was occurring. Analysis of the relationship of clonogen survival and radiation dose according to the α/β model showed that the exponential αD term predominated at the second and fourth weeks of age. By the eighth week of age, the <tex-math>$\beta D^{2}$</tex-math> term had come to predominate and the survival curve had a pronounced initial convex shoulder. Further experiments are required to determine whether there is an association between the high sensitivity of the prepubertal and pubertal mammary clonogens to radiation killing and a high susceptibility to radiogenic initiation of cancer.

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