Radioactive waste from nuclear installations and nuclear reprocessing plants, nuclear accidents, and radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons testing constitute a serious problem facing future generations. Marine algae and phytoplanktons accumulate radionuclides from their surroundings and are used as bioindicators of radioactive pollution in the environment. In Northern Europe, the affected marine systems include the Irish Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the North Sea. The main sources of this radioactive contamination are global fallout from nuclear weapons tests, river transport from Siberia, and marine transport of discharges from Sellafield and Chernobyl. An increased leukemia incidence has been observed in young children at Seascale near Sellafield, and an elevated incidence of leukemia has been recorded among young people (0–24 years) in the French canton of Beaumont-Hague close to the Cap de la Hague nuclear reprocessing facility. In Scandinavia, scientists suspect that people in parts of Sweden are still dying from cancer caused by radiation from the Chernobyl accident. Moreover, the Baltic Sea is contaminated with man-made plutonium radionuclides from nuclear reprocessing. However, some experts are able to dismiss the above relationships due to important uncertainties over the estimation of radiation doses from environmental discharges based on a mutational theory of carcinogenesis. Consequently, it appears to be of paramount importance to reevaluate the current methods for cancer risk assessment in the case of radiation exposure within the context of an apoptotic model of carcinogenesis that could explain such a discrepancy. According to this new model, subtle differences in gene expression in response to a carcinogen can initiate cell death or apoptosis and act as a trigger for carcinogenesis. Simultaneously, future implications for human gene evolution are unavoidable.
Part of the book: Gene Expression and Phenotypic Traits