Human lymphoblastoid cells of normal origin and from genetic instability syndromes, i.e. Fanconi anemia (FA) group C and ataxia telangectasia, were continuously exposed to extremely low frequency magnetic field (ELF-MF). We report that ELF-MF, though not perturbing cell cycle progression, increases the rate of cell death in normal cell lines. In contrast, cell death is not affected in cells from genetic instability syndromes; this reflects a specific failure of the apoptotic response. Reintroduction of complementation group C in FA cells re-established the apoptotic response to ELF-MF. Thus, genes implicated in genetic instability syndromes are relevant in modulating the response of cells to ELF-MF.