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Effects of Radiation on Human Cells

External or internal radiation can penetrate the human cell to the nucleus and initiate ionization or trigger water radiolysis. The effect can be cell malfunction, Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) break, apoptosis, cancer development, or the affected person’s death. Accordingly, this essay evaluates how radiation can affect a person on molecular and cellular levels. Notably, ionizing radiation prompts genetic distortion, and the impact is profound in the genetic cells.

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Radiation ionization can occur directly or indirectly based on the site of action. When the beams enter the cell, they destabilize the nucleic acids resulting in DNA breaks. Burgio et al. (2018) assert that ionizing radiations cause stochastic breaks in the double helix, leading to aging, anemia, or human death. Therefore, radiation damages the genetic material contributing to lethal repercussions such as impaired duplication or apoptosis.

Ionization produce free radicals when it occurs indirectly and affects cells differently. The reactive atoms activate mutations in the gametes, giving rise to genetic abnormalities and induce oxidative stress in whole body cells, yielding malignancy. Burgio et al. (2018) posit that the reactive species trip transgenerational damage to genetic cells and carcinogenic impact on somatic cells. Thus, they propagate hereditary conditions or inflammatory diseases when targeting germline or somatic cells.

Cells display different sensitivity levels to radiation, depending on their physiology. According to Burgio et al. (2018), cells with transposable elements are prone to mutagenesis. In this case, actively reproducing cells are very receptive to the ionization effect since they demand unaltered DNA to avert severe complications. Correspondingly, spermatogonia diligently duplicate, and therefore highly radiosensitive, while nerve cells minimally divide, making them resistant to radiation.

Radiation can cause genetic or somatic changes depending on the ionization mechanism and the affected cells. The ionizing agents can target the whole body or reproduction cells, causing apoptosis or impaired DNA replication. Subsequently, if the rays ionize genetic cells, hereditary complications occur, but if they infiltrate somatic cells, non-hereditary diseases arise. Correspondingly, the highly dividing cells are extremely responsive to ionization and, hence, prone to mutations.


Burgio, E., Piscitelli, P., & Migliore, L. (2018). Ionizing radiation and human health: Reviewing models of exposure and mechanisms of cellular damage. An epigenetic perspective. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(9), 1971. Web.

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