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Radiation, Genes, and Mutations

adequate enough to put the DNA molecule back together in its proper sequence. When replication occurs, the new strands of DNA carry the new altered sequence of genes. As each generation of cells is produced the mutations continue to show up in the replicated cells. These cells are often nonfunctional and become tumorous growths such as skin cancer.

Radiation is known to be dangerous to human bodies. Millions of body cells exposed to high-energy waves from X rays, radon gas, and ultra-violet radiation have been permanently harmed by these emissions. The DNA of the individual cells is too delicate to withstand the energy produced by these kinds of radiation. The DNA molecules are torn apart or suffer drastic changes in their genetic sequencing which can lead to mutations. Under normal conditions, DNA molecules routinely undergo some sort of genetic alteration. During replication, or copying of the cell, mistakes in gene sequencing often occur. However, the cell contains many repair mechanisms that continually monitor and repair damage to DNA strands.

1. What makes radiation dangerous to cells? 2. How are skin cells damaged by exposure to ultra-violet radiation?

3. In what two ways does radon destroy genetic information in lung tissue cells?

4. Why do you think its important that a pregnant woman always tell her healthcare provider she is pregnant before receiving any X ray examination?

30 Cell Reproduction

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Meeting Individual Needs

Radon gas is especially harmful to lung tissues because it enters the body through regular breathing in a building contaminated with radon. The emissions easily damage fragile lung tissues. Not only do the high-energy radioactive emissions destroy cellular DNA, but other large particles tear the cell membranes apart leaving the body strained to constantly repair the damaged tissues. Fortunately, many forms of genetic alteration by radiation are preventable. Limiting exposure to X rays, using sunscreen, and testing buildings for radon levels can help prevent damage to a cells genetic makeup.

Radiation and Gene Damage

When cells are exposed to radiation, however, several types of molecular destruction are possible. The DNA is both physically and chemically broken (cleaved) by the high energy waves. Often the repair of the DNA strand by enzymes or other chemicals is not