Transmission Of Genetic Material

Radiation and several alkylating agents can produce single-gene mutations and chromosomal translocations in spermatogonia.27 The persistence of a mutation depends mainly on its location. Mutations that occur early in stem spermatogonia will produce mutation-carrying sperm for the lifetime of the male, whereas those occurring in later stages of spermatogenesis will only lead to a mutation-carrying sperm for a few months.11 Meiotic and post-meiotic germ cells are more susceptible to mutations than are stem spermatogonia. Therefore, the mutational risks are highest when a pregnancy occurs within one spermatogenic cycle after the male is exposed to the damaging agent.11 In females, most alky-lating agents and a variety of other chemotherapeutic drugs induce chromosome aberrations or other mutations in developing oocytes that result in embryonic death.27

Although sperm DNA integrity can vary greatly among cancer patients, patients with Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's diseases generally have a significantly higher prevalence of DNA damage than healthy men.28 Sperm DNA damage can be assessed with a variety of techniques,29 but none can definitively determine whether the mutations will be passed onto any offspring.

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