The theory underlying radiation protection was developed from studies of people, laboratory animals, tissues, cells and macromolecules. Data on people were obtained from opportunistic studies of individuals previously exposed to radiation. Rarely has it been possible to conduct prospective studies of people exposed to known quantities of radiation, which sharply restricts the nature of questions that they can address. In contrast, studies using laboratory animals and simpler biological systems can be designed to address specific questions, using controlled exposure conditions. In-vitro research with macromolecules, cells and tissues leads to understanding normal and disease processes in isolated biological components. Studies of the intact animals provide opportunities to study in vivo interactive mechanisms observed in vitro and their role in development of radiation-induced diseases such as cancer. In the future, studies of intact animals should prove increasingly valuable in linking new knowledge at the subanimal level with the more fragmentary information obtained from direct observations on people. This will provide insight into important issues such as (a) effects of low-level radiation exposures, (b) mechanism of cancer induction at high versus low radiation doses, and (c) influence of factors such as nutrition and exposure to chemicals on radiation-induced cancer. This presentation describes strategies for conducting and integrating results of research using macromolecules, cells, tissues, laboratory animals and people to improve our understanding of radiation-induced cancer. It will also emphasize the problems encountered in studies at all levels of biological organization when the disease is observed in low “excess incidence” long after exposure to the toxicant.
©1988Health Physics Society