Skip to main content
hpa logo
Topics A-Z:
Search the site:
Home Products & Services Radiation Chromosome Dosimetry

Chromosome Dosimetry

Public Health England (PHE) provides a specialist biological dosimetry service to evaluate people known or suspected of being overexposed to ionising radiation. It is based on analysing chromosome damage in blood cells.

The method can:

  • demonstrate false alarms when, for example, the dose recorded on a badge was not really received by the wearer
  • confirm genuine overexposures and provide an alternative estimate of dose independent of the physics methods
  • often be the only available method to confirm or refute suspected overexposure to people in a radiation incident who were not wearing dosemeter badges.

The standard chromosome test provided is the dicentric assay, which can indicate a recent radiation exposure that occurred within about two years. Cells carrying dicentric chromosome damage are unstable and they are eliminated from the blood being replaced by undamaged cells. A chromosome test more suited to indicating an old radiation exposure is called Fluorescence In Situ Hybridisation (FISH). The test detects stable radiation induced chromosome translocations and can be used to assess total lifetime radiation dose.

The service is free to customers who have contracted PHE  to be their Radiation Protection Services provider. Otherwise the charge per analysis (with effect from April 2014) is £500.00 (+ VAT in the UK) for the standard dicentric assay and £850.00 (+ VAT in the UK) for the FISH translocation assay.

Blood samples for analysis may be sent to the PHE Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards at Chilton from anywhere in the world. Exact details of what, when and how to dispatch are available on request.

We prefer to liaise with the appropriate physician and, firstly, discuss the specific circumstances of each case to establish whether it is appropriate for chromosome analysis to be carried out.

If you are interested, please email body.monitoring@phe.gov.uk.

Further information on chromosomal and other blood tests for exposure to chemicals and radiation.