Radiation-hormesis phenotypes, the related mechanisms and implications for disease prevention and therapy

J Cell Commun Signal. 2014 Dec;8(4):341-52. doi: 10.1007/s12079-014-0250-x. Epub 2014 Oct 17.


Humans are continuously exposed to ionizing radiation throughout life from natural sources that include cosmic, solar, and terrestrial. Much harsher natural radiation and chemical environments existed during our planet's early years. Mammals survived the harsher environments via evolutionarily-conserved gifts ̶ a continuously evolving system of stress-induced natural protective measures (i.e., activated natural protection [ANP]). The current protective system is differentially activated by stochastic (i.e., variable) low-radiation-dose thresholds and when optimally activated in mammals includes antioxidants, DNA damage repair, p53-related apoptosis of severely-damaged cells, reactive-oxygen-species (ROS)/reactive-nitrogen-species (RNS)- and cytokine-regulated auxiliary apoptosis that selectively removes aberrant cells (e.g., precancerous cells), suppression of disease promoting inflammation, and immunity against cancer cells. The intercellular-signaling-based protective system is regulated at least in part via epigenetic reprogramming of adaptive-response genes. When the system is optimally activated, it protects against cancer and some other diseases, thereby leading to hormetic phenotypes (e.g., reduced disease incidence to below the baseline level; reduced pain from inflammation-related problems). Here, some expressed radiation hormesis phenotypes and related mechanisms are discussed along with their implications for disease prevention and therapy.