Fanconi anemia (FA) is an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by bone marrow failure and cancer susceptibility. Patient cells are sensitive to a variety of clastogens, most prominently cross-linking agents. Although there is the long-standing clinical impression of radiosensitivity, in vitro studies have yielded conflicting results. We exposed peripheral blood mononuclear cells from FA patients and carriers to x-rays and determined their DNA damage and repair profiles using the alkaline single-cell gel electrophoresis (comet) assay. Studies were carried out in two independent series of experiments by two laboratories using different protocols. The cells of both FA patients and carriers showed uniformly high initial DNA damage rates as assessed by the total initial tail moment. In addition, the average residual tail moment at 30 to 50 minutes and the repair half-time parameters were significantly elevated. These findings suggest an increased release of fragmented DNA following x-ray exposure in cells that carry one or two mutations in one of the FA genes. The comet assay may be a useful adjunct for heterozygote detection in families of FA patients.