Survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are monitored for health effects within the Life Span Study (LSS). The LSS results represent the most important source of data about cancer effects from ionizing radiation exposure, which forms the foundation for the radiation protection system. One uncertainty connected to deriving universal risk factors from these results is related to the problem of mixed radiation qualities. The A-bomb explosions generated a mixed beam of the sparsely ionizing gamma radiation and densely ionizing neutrons. However, until now the possible interaction of the two radiation types of inducing biological effects has not been taken into consideration. The existence of such interaction would suggest that the application of risk factors derived from the LSS to predict cancer effects after pure gamma-ray irradiation (such as in the Fukushima prefecture) leads to an overestimation of risk. To analyze the possible interaction of radiation types, a mixed-beam exposure facility was constructed where cells can be exposed to sparsely ionizing X rays and densely ionizing alpha particles. U2OS cells were used, which are stably transfected with a plasmid coding for the DNA repair gene 53BP1 coupled to a gene coding for the green fluorescent protein (GFP). The induction and repair of DNA damage, which are known to be related to cancer induction, were analyzed. The results suggest that alpha particles and X rays interact, leading to cellular and possibly cancer effects, which cannot be accurately predicted based on assuming simple additivity of the individual mixed-beam components.

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