A study was undertaken to determine whether blue fluorescent light might affect the sister chromatid exchange (SCE) frequency of peripheral lymphocytes in icteric newborns undergoing continuous phototherapy treatment (72 h). Also, the potential preventive effect of vitamin E on SCE frequency was studied in a subgroup of 11 preterm and 9 fullterm newborns after daily administration of vitamin E (46.44 mumol/kg/d, im). The results revealed that only the preterm icteric newborns showed an increase in mean SCE frequency of peripheral lymphocytes after phototherapy (9%, p = 0.02), but in no case did the highest SCEs/cell ratio exceed the normal values. No correlation was found between the average SCE rate and birth weight, gestational age or bilirubin levels. Also, no difference in SCEs was observed between newborns treated or untreated with vitamin E.