Evidence relevant to untargeted and transgenerational effects in the offspring of irradiated parents

Mark P. Little*, Dudley T. Goodhead, Bryn A. Bridges, Simon Bouffler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


In this article we review health effects in offspring of human populations exposed as a result of radiotherapy and some groups exposed to chemotherapy. We also assess risks in offspring of other radiation-exposed groups, in particular those of the Japanese atomic bomb survivors and occupationally and environmentally exposed groups. Experimental findings are also briefly surveyed.Animal and cellular studies tend to suggest that the irradiation of males, at least at high doses (mostly 1. Gy and above), can lead to observable effects (including both genetic and epigenetic) in the somatic cells of their offspring over several generations that are not attributable to the inheritance of a simple mutation through the parental germline. However, studies of disease in the offspring of irradiated humans have not identified any effects on health. The available evidence therefore suggests that human health has not been significantly affected by transgenerational effects of radiation. It is possible that transgenerational effects are restricted to relatively short times post-exposure and in humans conception at short times after exposure is likely to be rare. Further research that may help resolve the apparent discrepancies between cellular/animal studies and studies of human health are outlined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-67
Number of pages18
JournalMutation Research - Reviews in Mutation Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was initiated and supported by the UK Health Protection Agency (HPA) . The work of MPL was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics . The work of SDB was supported by the HPA . However, these bodies had no role in study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the article for publication. BAB and DTG received no financial support apart from meeting expenses.


  • Chemotherapy
  • Genetic effects
  • Minisatellites
  • Radiation
  • Radiotherapy
  • Transgenerational effects


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