Sister chromatid exchange (SCE) is a sensitive indicator of genotoxicity. In this study we investigated the effects of alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking on the frequency of SCE in cultures of peripheral lymphocytes. The rate was higher in alcoholics who smoked (10.89+/-2.46) and in smokers (positive controls) (7.64+/-1.01) than in healthy non-smokers (negative controls) (6.96+/-2.18). Statistical analysis suggested that the increases were related to alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking (p<0.05). (C) 2004 International Federation for Cell Biology. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.