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01.12.2018 | Research Article | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

BMC Geriatrics 1/2018

Rate of individuals with clearly increased radiosensitivity rise with age both in healthy individuals and in cancer patients

BMC Geriatrics > Ausgabe 1/2018
Barbara Schuster, Anna Ellmann, Theresa Mayo, Judith Auer, Matthias Haas, Markus Hecht, Rainer Fietkau, Luitpold V. Distel
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12877-018-0799-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



The question of an age dependence of individual radiosensitivity has only marginally been studied so far. Therefore, we analyzed blood samples of healthy individuals and cancer patients of different ages to determine individual radiosensitivity.


Ex vivo irradiated blood samples of 595 individuals were tested. Chromosomes 1, 2 and 4 were stained by 3-color fluorescence in situ hybridization and aberrations were analyzed. Radiosensitivity was determined by the mean breaks per metaphase (B/M).


Healthy individuals (mean age 50.7 years) had an average B/M value of 0.42 ± 0.104 and an increase of 0.0014B/M per year. The patients (mean age 60.4 years) had an average B/M value of 0.44 ± 0.150 and radiosensitivity did not change with age. In previous studies we found that from a value of 0.6B/M on an individual is considered to be distinctly radiosensitive. The portion of radiosensitive individuals (B/M > 0.6) increased in both cohorts with age.


Individual radiosensitivity rises continuously with age, yet with strong interindividual variation. No age related increase of radiosensitivity can be demonstrated in patients due to the strong interindividual variation. However among old cancer patients there is a higher probability to have patients with clearly increased radiosensitivity than at younger age.
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