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Henshaw Denis L.

E-mail: d.l.henshaw@bris.ac.uk

Denis Henshaw is Scientific Director at Children with Cancer UK (CwCUK), the UK's largest charity devoted to the causes, prevention and treatment of cancer in children and young adults, and Emeritus Professor of Human Radiation Effects at the University of Bristol.

Denis pioneered new methods for measuring natural alpha-radioactivity in the human body and under UK Medical Research Council (MRC) support studied the uptake and effects of naturally occurring alpha-radioactivity. In 1990 he published a link between domestic radon exposure and leukaemia incidence, since substantiated, notably in children. The findings led to work by others revealing genomic instability in cells irradiated with alpha-particles. Denis was an early pioneer of domestic radon monitoring and led an initiative to measure "hot" plutonium particles in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. His team showed that concentrations of the natural radionuclide 210Pb-supported 210Po in children's teeth across the UK exhibit correlations with both domestic radon levels and heavy traffic density. The latter testifies to the importance of the inhalation pathway to alpha-radionuclide accumulation in the skeleton and their radiation dose to bone marrow.

In 1996 Denis began investigating corona ion emission from high voltage powerlines and their transport hundreds of metres away. These ions deposit their electric charge on airborne pollutant particles which when inhaled may have a higher probability of lung deposition. His team has published widely on this issue, developing sophisticated nano-particle spectrometers for measuring directly corona ion electrical charging of air pollution particles. A major spin-off is the measurement of the nano-particle component of vehicle exhaust pollution and how, following inhalation, such particles may reach all body organs, including the fetus. Denis has also published papers addressing how magnetic fields may affect the risk of childhood leukaemia and other illnesses, notably by melatonin and circadian rhythm disruption.

Denis was a member of the UK Government Stakeholder Advisory Group for EMF, and the Ministry of Defence Independent Review Board on Depleted Uranium. He has acted as expert witness on matters of national and international concern. He has served as Board member and Associate Editor of the International Journal of Radiation Biology.

Following his retirement in 2011 and a long association with the charity, Denis was appointed Scientific Director of CwCUK. He oversees the charity's non-clinical research grants. He has introduced a number of initiatives, including a 5-year Research Fellowship Programme and Research Workshops, which provide the opportunity for in-depth examination of specialist topics in the causes and treatment of childhood cancer. He has also chaired a number of the charity's major International Conferences, including in 2004, the first on the environmental causes of childhood leukaemia, for the first time producing a coherent view of the major factors linked to the disease, such as natural background ionising radiation, chemical exposures, especially motor vehicle pollution and magnetic fields. Here, the emphasis is on mechanistic understanding of the epidemiological findings.

His current interests, working with CwCUK Trustees, are in the prevention of childhood cancer, understanding environmental and lifestyle causal factors and those associated with reduced risk.


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