radiation damage

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Harmful changes that occur to inanimate materials and living organisms as a result of exposure to energetic electrons, nucleons, fission fragments, or high-energy electromagnetic radiation. In inanimate materials the damage may be caused by electronic excitation, ionization, transmutation, or displacement of atoms. In organisms, these mechanisms can cause changes to cells that alter their genetic structure, interfere with their division, or kill them. In humans, these changes can lead to radiation sickness, radiation burns (from large doses of radiation), or to long-term damage of several kinds, the most serious of which result in various forms of cancer (especially leukaemia).

Subjects: Physics — Chemistry.

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