BACKGROUND The aim of this study was to evaluate the antioxidant role of zinc (Zn) against radiation-induced cataract in the rat lens after total cranial irradiation with a single 5 Gray (Gy) dose of gamma irradiation. MATERIALS AND METHODS Twenty-one Sprague-Dawley rats were used for the experiment. The control group did not receive Zn or irradiation but received 1-ml saline orally plus sham-irradiation. The irradiation (IR) group received 5 Gy gamma irradiation to the total cranium as a single dose plus 0.1 ml physiological saline intraperitoneally. The IR plus Zn group received irradiation to total cranium plus 10 mg/kg/day Zn intraperitoneally. Biochemical parameters measured in rat lenses were carried out using spectrophotometric techniques. RESULTS Lens total (enzymatic plus non-enzymatic) superoxide scavenger activity (TSSA), glutathione reductase (GRD), and glutathione-S-transferase (GST) activities significantly increased in the IR plus Zn groups when compared with the IR group. However, TSSA, GRD and GST activities were significantly lower in the IR group when compared with the control group. Lens non-enzymatic superoxide scavenger activity (NSSA) in the IR plus Zn group was significantly increased compared to that of the IR group. Lens xanthine oxidase (XO) activity in the IR group significantly increased compared to that of both the control and IR plus Zn groups. CONCLUSION Zn has clear antioxidant properties and prevented oxidative stress by scavenging free radicals generated by ionizing radiation in rat lenses.