Radiation results from the decay of unstable nuclei to give out particles that could destroy normal tissues leading to diseases such as cancer. Radioactive elements are referred to as ionizing radiations that can impact the chemical and physical traits of the molecules they are exposed to. Radiation comprises high-energy particles, containing alpha, beta, and gamma rays respectively. They have high energy with the ability to detach electrons from an atom in a process referred to as ionization, to cause biological harm. According to Wolfson (1993), the molecules are extremely active and when they are in living tissue, they could experience a chemical reaction to produce harmful effects. The human body contains organs with specialized cells that could be affected by these ionizing radiations.
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High radiation doses might upset the cell processes and could be fatal. Worse still, when complex molecules such as nucleic acids and proteins are involved, they could break and be rendered dysfunctional (Wolfson, 1993). As a result, cell vitality and enzyme processes might be lost, which could lead to cancer and genetic mutations (Wolfson, 1993). Additionally, molecules present in living tissue are comprised of chemical bonds, which determine their composition and structure that could be modified by ionizing radiations. As a result, DNA could be altered to cause genetic mutations that could cause the cell to divide uncontrollably, and function abnormally depending on their sensitivity and consequently cause human diseases.
The time taken from exposure to carcinogens up to the detection of cancer is referred to as the latency period. The malignancy may manifest several years following the exposure to ionizing radiations. Usually, exposure quantity and latency, relate inversely since more dosage is related to a reduced latency while a low dose is related to an extensive latency. Generally, early detection is important and could be achieved through screening to control the metastasis as argued by DeVita (2008).
Leukemia for instance is a hematological neoplasm that involves the bone marrow, lymphatic system, and blood cells. It is marked by an upsurge of leucocytes in the blood. From research conducted by DeVita (2008), radiation-induced leukemia has a relatively short latency for malignancy to be detected. However, this varies with the irradiation dosage and may take as early as two years, following the initial exposure. The peak incidence could occur during four to eight years following exposure (DeVita, 2008). Leukemia results from DNA mutations through stimulation of oncogenes or the dissimulation of ‘tumor suppressor genes’. According to DeVita (2008), this interrupts the process of apoptosis and cell division. The normal blood cells are substituted with abnormal ones from the bone marrow and accumulate in the blood. This causes problems with blood clotting since the platelets are destroyed. Besides, the immune system is weakened since the white blood cells cannot effectively fight diseases. Anemia could also arise due to inadequate red blood cells that could lead to dyspnea (DeVita, 2008). Fatal radiation doses can be managed through bone marrow transplants to revive the formation of white blood cells or even through blood transfusions.
List of References
DeVita, V.T. (2008) DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s cancer: principles & practice of oncology. Philadelphia, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Wolfson, R. (1993) Nuclear Choices: A Citizen’s Guide to Nuclear Technology. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.