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Review ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Genet. | doi: 10.3389/fgene.2019.00260


  • 1University of Calgary, Canada
  • 2University of Lethbridge, Canada

Ionizing radiation is a well-established cause of deleterious effects on human health. Understanding the risks of radiation exposure is important for the development of protective measures and guidelines. Demographic factors such as age, sex, genetic susceptibility, comorbidities, and various other lifestyle factors influence the radiosensitivity of different subpopulations. Amongst these factors, the influence of sex differences on radiation sensitivity has been given very less attention. In fact, the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) has based its recommendations on a population average, rather than the data on the radiosensitivity of distinct subpopulations. In this study, we reviewed major human studies on the health risks of radiation exposure and showed that sex-related factors may potentially influence the long-term response to radiation exposure. Available data suggest that long-term radiosensitivity in women is higher than that in men who receive a comparable dose of radiation. The report on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR VII) published in 2006 by the National Academy of Sciences, USA emphasized that women may be at significantly greater risk of suffering and dying from radiation-induced cancer than men exposed to the same dose of radiation. We show that radiation effects are sex-specific, and long-term radiosensitivity in females is higher than that in males. We also discuss the radiation effects as a function of age. In the future, more systematic studies are needed to elucidate the sex differences in radiation responses across the life continuum—from preconception through childhood, adulthood, and old age—to ensure that boys and girls and men and women are equally protected across ages.

Keywords: Radiation, Radiation effects and adverse reactions, sex differences, Aging, Cancer

Received: 28 Sep 2018; Accepted: 08 Mar 2019.

Edited by:

Elena G. Pasyukova, Institute of Molecular Genetics (RAS), Russia

Reviewed by:

Anatoliy I. Yashin, Duke University, United States
Ki Moon Seong, Korea Institute of Radiological and Medical Sciences, South Korea  

Copyright: © 2019 Narendran, Luzhna and Kovalchuk. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Olga Kovalchuk, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, T1K 3M4, Alberta, Canada,