On 15 April 1999, physician Gillian Thomas published the editorial “Improved Treatment for Cervical Cancer – Concurrent Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy,” henceforth “Improved Treatment,” in The New England Journal of Medicine. In that editorial, she discusses the potential benefits of combining chemotherapy drugs with radiation to treat women with cervical cancer. At the time, healthcare professionals rarely treated cervical cancer by combining chemotherapy or radiation. Two months prior to Thomas’s publication, the US National Cancer Institute, headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, released an announcement advocating for combining chemotherapy with radiation based on clinical trial results. In “Improved Treatment,” Thomas summarized the results of those clinical trials that had led to the announcement and communicated a new way to treat invasive cervical cancers, which persists as of 2019.

Curt Jacob Stern studied radiation and chromosomes in humans and fruit flies in the United States during the twentieth century. He researched the mechanisms of inheritance and of mitosis, or the process in which the chromosomes in the nucleus of a single cell, called the parent cell, split into identical sets and yield two cells, called daughter cells. Stern worked on the Drosophila melanogaster fruit fly, and he provided early evidence that chromosomes exchange genetic material during cellular reproduction. During World War II, he provided evidence for the harmful effects of radiation on developing organisms. That research showed that mutations can cause problems in developing fetuses and can lead to cancer. He helped explain how genetic material transmits from parent to progeny, and how it functions in developing organisms.

Hermann Joseph Muller conducted three experiments in 1926 and 1927 that demonstrated that exposure to x-rays, a form of high-energy radiation, can cause genetic mutations, changes to an organism's genome, particularly in egg and sperm cells. In his experiments, Muller exposed fruit flies (Drosophila) to x-rays, mated the flies, and observed the number of mutations in the offspring. In 1927, Muller described the results of his experiments in "Artificial Transmutation of the Gene" and "The Problem of Genic Modification". His discovery indicated the causes of mutation and for that research he later received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1946. Muller's experiments with x-rays established that x-rays mutated genes and that egg and sperm cells are especially susceptible to such genetic mutations.

Hermann Joseph Muller studied the effects of x-ray radiation on genetic material in the US during the twentieth century. At that time, scientists had yet to determine the dangers that x-rays presented. In 1927, Muller demonstrated that x-rays, a form of high-energy radiation, can mutate the structure of genetic material. Muller warned others of the dangers of radiation, advising radiologists to protect themselves and their patients from radiation. He also opposed the indiscriminate use of radiation in medical and industrial fields. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his lifetime work involving radiation and genetic mutation. Muller's worked enabled scientists to directly study mutations without having to rely on naturally occurring mutations. Furthermore, Muller showed that radiation, even in small doses, leads to genetic mutations primarily in germ cells, cells which give rise to sperm and egg cells.

In 2003, HBO Original Programming released the documentary Chernobyl Heart. Maryann De Leo directed and produced the film, which is about the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident and how the radiation from that accident has affected people living in the area. Side effects have included mental disabilities, physical disabilities, and genetic mutations. The documentary follows Adi Roche, the founder of Chernobyl Children International, a non-profit humanitarian organization headquartered in Cork, Ireland, as she interviews people who live in the areas that Chernobyl contaminated with radiation. Roche travels to mental asylums, hospitals, and orphanages to interview people who take care of the children affected by the radiation. Chernobyl Heart provided viewers with information about the side effects of radiation exposure and the long-term effects that this has on people, especially children exposed to radiation during their developmental years.

Subscribe to Radiation