We addressed the question of whether cancers arising in an abnormally radiation sensitive normal tissue are also abnormally sensitive to ionizing irradiation. Germ line mutation-carrying mice with an enhanced radiation sensitivity of the normal tissue, the severe combined immunodeficient (SCID), and normally radiation sensitive mice (C3H) were used to study the sensitivity of normal and tumor tissues in vivo and in vitro. The lethal dose for 50% of the irradiated animals after single dose whole body irradiation was 2.6-fold higher in C3H compared to SCID mice. The dose for an isoeffective acute skin reaction after single dose irradiation was end point dependent 1.7 to 3.7 times higher in C3H than in SCID mice. Embryonic fibroblast and methylcholanthrene induced soft tissue sarcomas derived from C3H and SCID mice were established in vitro and colony-forming assays after single dose irradiation were carried out. Choosing mean inactivation dose as the end point, SCID fibroblast lines were 3.0-fold and SCID tumor cell lines 2.7-fold more radiation sensitive than C3H fibroblast lines and C3H tumor cell lines. Tumor control and growth delay assays for 110-mm3 tumors were used to compare the radiation sensitivity of SCID and C3H tumors in vivo. The doses for 50% local tumor control and a growth delay of 40 days were 2.6 times higher in C3H tumors compared to SCID tumors. Tumors arising in an abnormally radiation sensitive normal tissue are also sensitive to irradiation. The difference in radiation sensitivity of normal tissues predicted the difference in tumor tissues in these two murine systems.