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X-Ray Kin: Radiation risk is hereditary

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9:05am, May 16, 2007

Susceptibility to radiation-induced tumors runs in families, according to an unusual study.

In the 1950s, Jewish immigrants from North Africa and elsewhere streamed into the new country of Israel. Many arriving children carried a fungal scalp infection called tinea capitis, also known as ringworm. Standard treatment included a quick dose of X rays that zapped the fungus and induced temporary baldness. Unbeknownst to anyone at the time, it also damaged the children's DNA.

Decades later, some people irradiated as youths developed tumors. Particularly common were meningiomas, noncancerous tumors that grow in the lining of the brain and spinal cord.

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