To investigate the hypothesis that persons who developed thyroid or skin cancer subsequent to scalp irradiation for tinea capitis are particularly sensitive to radiation, possibly because of a high frequency of ataxia-telangiectasia, we used an in vitro cell survival assay to evaluate radiosensitivity of their fibroblast cell strains. Study subjects were selected from a cohort of 10,834 Israelis irradiated during childhood for tinea capitis. Skin fibroblasts were obtained from thyroid and skin cancer patients (cases) as well as a sample of subjects who did not have cancer (controls). Fibroblasts were cultured and then loss of colony-forming ability as a result of acute X-irradiation was evaluated. Comparison of survival curve parameters (mean inverse of the slope and the dose needed to reduce colony survival to 10%) between 12 thyroid cancer and 12 control strains showed no differences (P > 0.5). A slightly increased radiation sensitivity of the skin cancer cases compared with their controls was observed. Although based on few subjects (14 cases and 11 controls), the findings were similar whether the mean inverse of the slope (P = 0.06) or the dose needed to reduce colony survival to 10% (P = 0.05) was evaluated. However, because of the small size of the study and potential errors inherent in survival assays, our finding that cell strains derived from patients who developed skin cancer exhibit enhanced radiosensitivity should be viewed as preliminary and interpreted cautiously.

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