The investigations reported herein link tissue structure and elemental presence with issues of environmental health and disease, exemplified by uptake and storage of potentially toxic elements in the body, the osteoarthritic condition and malignancy in the breast and other soft tissues. Focus is placed oil application of state-of-the-art ionizing radiation techniques, including, micro-synchrotron X-ray fluorescence (mu-SXRF) and particle-induced X-ray emission/Rutherford backscattering mapping (mu-PIXE/RBS). coherent small-angle X-ray scattering (cSAXS) and X-ray phase-contrast imaging, providing information oil elemental make-up, the large-scale organisation of collagen and anatomical features of moderate and low atomic number media. For the particular situations under investigation, use of such facilities is allowing information to be obtained at an unprecedented level of detail, yielding new understanding of the affected tissues and the progression of disease. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.