Human Radiosensitivity and Radiosusceptibility: What Are the Differences?

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Jul 2;22(13):7158. doi: 10.3390/ijms22137158.


The individual response to ionizing radiation (IR) raises a number of medical, scientific, and societal issues. While the term "radiosensitivity" was used by the pioneers at the beginning of the 20st century to describe only the radiation-induced adverse tissue reactions related to cell death, a confusion emerged in the literature from the 1930s, as "radiosensitivity" was indifferently used to describe the toxic, cancerous, or aging effect of IR. In parallel, the predisposition to radiation-induced adverse tissue reactions (radiosensitivity), notably observed after radiotherapy appears to be caused by different mechanisms than those linked to predisposition to radiation-induced cancer (radiosusceptibility). This review aims to document these differences in order to better estimate the different radiation-induced risks. It reveals that there are very few syndromes associated with the loss of biological functions involved directly in DNA damage recognition and repair as their role is absolutely necessary for cell viability. By contrast, some cytoplasmic proteins whose functions are independent of genome surveillance may also act as phosphorylation substrates of the ATM protein to regulate the molecular response to IR. The role of the ATM protein may help classify the genetic syndromes associated with radiosensitivity and/or radiosusceptibility.

Keywords: ATM; ionizing radiation; radiodegeneration; radiosensitivity; radiosusceptibility.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / etiology*
  • Radiation Tolerance*