Assessment of risks from combined exposures to radiation and chemicals

PhD project supervised by Professor Andreas Kortenkamp and Dr Rhona Anderson

Very little is known about the combined genotoxic effects of different types of ionising radiation and chemical carcinogens upon cells, animals or humans. However, there is the possibility that radiation might lead to a heightened sensitivity to chemical carcinogens, or that pre-existing chemical exposures might increase sensitivity to radiation. There is evidence from studies investigating the joint effects of radon gas and smoking that combined radiation and chemical exposures increases a person’s risk from cancer. However, more systematic studies are needed to elucidate the magnitude of combined radiation and chemical effects and to better define these joint risks.

More clarity about this issue is needed not only to alleviate concerns among nuclear veterans, but also to better assess the possible risks among the wider population who are exposed to combinations of radiation and chemicals e.g. by medical treatments (X-rays).

This research project will conduct proof of concept experiments with cultured cells to reveal whether combined genotoxic effects between radiation and chemical exposures can occur in principle. This approach will enable us to establish basic cell biological principles which will provide a solid foundation for examining whether combined risks exist under more realistic exposure scenarios.