Stem cells are fundamental to the development of any tissue or organism via their ability to self-renew, which is aided by their unlimited proliferative capacity and their ability to produce fully differentiated offspring, often from multiple lineages. Stems cells are long lived and have the potential to accumulate mutations, including in response to radiation exposure. It is thought that stem cells have the potential to be induced into a cancer stem cell phenotype and that these may play an important role in resistance to radiotherapy. For radiation-induced carcinogenesis, the role of targeted and non-targeted effects is unclear with tissue or origin being important. Studies of genomic instability and bystander responses have shown consistent effects in haematopoietic models. Several models of radiation have predicted that stem cells play an important role in tumour initiation and that bystander responses could play a role in proliferation and self-renewal.