Kleinerman, R. A, Romanyukha, A. A., Schauer, D. A. and Tucker, J. D. Retrospective Assessment of Radiation Exposure Using Biological Dosimetry: Chromosome Painting, Electron Paramagnetic Resonance and the Glycophorin A Mutation Assay. Radiat. Res. 166, 287–302 (2006).
Biological monitoring of dose can contribute important, independent estimates of cumulative radiation exposure in epidemiological studies, especially in studies in which the physical dosimetry is lacking. Three biodosimeters that have been used in epidemiological studies to estimate past radiation exposure from external sources will be highlighted: chromosome painting or FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridization), the glycophorin A somatic mutation assay (GPA), and electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) with teeth. All three biodosimeters have been applied to A-bomb survivors, Chernobyl clean-up workers, and radiation workers. Each biodosimeter has unique advantages and limitations depending upon the level and type of radiation exposure. Chromosome painting has been the most widely applied biodosimeter in epidemiological studies of past radiation exposure, and results of these studies provide evidence that dose-related translocations persist for decades. EPR tooth dosimetry has been used to validate dose models of acute and chronic radiation exposure, although the present requirement of extracted teeth has been a disadvantage. GPA has been correlated with physically based radiation dose after high-dose, acute exposures but not after low-dose, chronic exposures. Interindividual variability appears to be a limitation for both chromosome painting and GPA. Both of these techniques can be used to estimate the level of past radiation exposure to a population, whereas EPR can provide individual dose estimates of past exposure. This paper will review each of these three biodosimeters and compare their application in selected epidemiological studies.