Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident we report on a patient who was a clean-up worker, who subsequently developed multiple cutaneous basal cell carcinomas (BCCs). We used several methods to assess the biological long-term effects related to low-dose external and internal radiation exposure. Specifically, because BCC risk may be increased with ionizing radiation exposure, we endeavored to determine whether the multifocal BCCs were related to the patient's past clean-up work. We assessed cytogenetic changes using peripheral blood, and internal incorporation was measured with a whole-body counter. Gene expression alterations were determined and array-based comparative genomic hybridization was performed for copy number aberration analysis of available BCC samples. In 1,053 metaphase cells, the dicentric yield of 0.005 dicentrics, with acentrics/cell, was significantly increased compared to the established calibration curve (P < 0.001). A 2.5-fold increase in total translocations was observed compared to the expected translocation rate. No internal contamination was detected with the whole-body counter. At the RNA level, two of seven genes (HNRNPA1, AGAP4/6/8) indicated internal plutonium exposure associated with the lowest dose category found in Mayak workers (>0–0.055 Gy). Relevant DNA copy number changes were only detected within the most aggressive BCC focus. Our results suggest that the examined worker had low and more recent radiation exposure with presumably internalized radionuclides that were below the detection level of a whole-body counter. The multifocal BCC could not be related to past occupational radiation exposure. The findings from our study suggest that integrating different methodologies potentially provides an improved overall assessment of individual health risks associated with or excluding occupational radiation exposure.
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Vol. 188 • No. 5