13 cancer patients were studied before radiotherapy (RT) and at regular intervals after RT to determine the effect of RT on chromosomal abnormalities in sperm. The men were 19-47 years old and received testicular radiation doses of 0.4-5.0 Gray. Human pronuclear sperm chromosomes were analysed after penetration of zona-pellucida-free hamster eggs. Unfortunately the hamster egg penetration rates were exceedingly low, both before and after RT and this limited the number of sperm chromosome complements which could be analysed. Before RT, the frequency of abnormal sperm chromosome complements was 0% ( 0 9). After RT, the majority of men were azoospermic for 24 months but complements could be analysed from 4 men. In the first 12 months the frequency of abnormalities was 13% ( 1 8) and at 24 months it was 13% ( 7 55). By 36 months after RT, most men had recovered sperm production and the frequency of abnormalities in 8 men was 21% ( 18 86), which is significantly higher than the rate in control donors (8.5%). For individual men the range was 6-67%, and there was a significant correlation between testicular radiation dose and the frequency of sperm chromosomal abnormalities. The frequencies of both numerical and structural abnormalities were significantly increased after RT. This is the first evidence that radiation may increase the frequency of chromosomal abnormalities in human gametes.
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