A 1,000-square-mile zone was cordoned off to prevent harmful exposure to , and only 1,000 residents have returned to the exclusion zone, now part of Ukraine, in the nearly four decades since they left.
But plants and animals - including packs of wolves, as well as grizzly bears, bison, and elk - have reclaimed the site of the nuclear disaster, some of which seem unaffected by the high levels of radiation.
New research shows that wolves living in the exclusion zone are genetically different to those living outside of the region.
Evolutionary biologist Cara Love has tracked the wolves' adaptation since 2014, when she visited the exclusion zone with her colleagues and placed GPS collars equipped with radiation dosimeters around the animals' necks.
The group of researchers also took blood from the wolves to help them understand the animals' responses to the cancer-causing radiation.
Ms Love said the specialised collars allowed her team of researchers to measure, in real time, where and how much radiation the wolves were exposed to.
They came to the conclusion the wolves were exposed to 11.28 millirem per day - more than six times the legal limit safe for humans.
Specific regions in the wolves' genes appeared resilient to increased cancer risk, unlike in humans where a number of mutations - including BRCA - make individuals more susceptible to the disease.
Ms Love and her team also discovered that the mutant wolves' immune systems were different to that of other wolves, and similar to those of cancer patients going through radiation treatment.
She said she hoped their findings could be used to identify protective mutations that increase humans' odds of surviving cancer, as canines fight off cancer more similarly to the way humans do than lab rats.
It has been said the descendants of former Chernobyl residents' pets such as dogs could possess similar cancer-resilient genomes, but they are yet to be studied to the same extent as the wolves.
Chernobyl dogs have been in the area since immediately after the disaster, so have likely adapted better than other species.