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Space Radiation

April 28, 2008

Exposure to radiation in space could make astronauts prone to cancer.


Cancer concerns for astronauts. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Long-term human space travel, like a mission to Mars, presents many challenges. One of them may be an elevated risk of cancer. Scientists at Georgetown University’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center have been studying mice exposed to the kind of high-energy radiation found in space: radiation that Earth’s atmosphere screens out for us. Those mice get lots of cancer-linked free radical chemicals in their digestive tracts. Biochemist Albert Fornace says the next step is to find out how this may affect cancer rates in astronauts.

ALBERT FORNACE (Georgetown University):
And then of course, a longer term issue is are there preventative agents that could be used that would reduce their risk.

Unfortunately, he says it’s not as simple as building a radiation shield on the craft, since such a shield would have to be too dense to launch into space. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.