The kinetics of DNA damage by bleomycin (BLM) was assessed by measuring the amount of DNA breakage induced by BLM at different doses, treatment lengths, and treatment temperatures. DNA degradation was measured with the alkaline unwinding method. Comparison of the curves of DNA cleavage by BLM leads to the conclusion that low doses (1-5 micrograms/ml) and short treatments (5-15 min) produce marked damage in the DNA. High increases in BLM concentration produce relatively small increases in DNA damage above the levels obtained with low doses. Extension of treatment times does not increase the DNA degradation above the rate observed with 15-min treatments. The repair of DNA damage starts at about 15 min after the initiation of treatment. The mending of DNA breaks is very fast and extensive when BLM is no longer present. Repair not only implies the closing of DNA nicks, but very likely the degradation of the BLM molecules intercalated in the DNA interrupting the reactions responsible for the generation of free radicals. Persistence of BLM in the cell environment facilitates the replacement of degraded BLM molecules by new ones. This produces the persistent production of free radicals and the establishment of a balance between the processes of DNA damage and repair.