Radiological personnel represent workers exposed to low cumulative doses of radiation. As their surveillance is generally based on physical dosimetry, there is little or inconclusive information on biological effects due to radiation exposure at these doses. We aimed to explore the extent of chromosomal damage in circulating lymphocytes of hospital workers (technicians, nurses and physicians) chronically exposed to a very low level of radiation using conventional and molecular cytogenetic analyses (chromosome painting with chromosomes #2, #3 and #10 as probe cocktail). Compared with controls, exposed workers displayed a significant increase in the frequency of aberrant lymphocytes (1.26+/-0.11/100 cells versus 1.63+/-0.17/100 cells). In particular, exposed technicians showed significantly higher mean values than nurses or physicians (3.68+/-1.17/100 cells versus 1.36+/-0.18/100 cells and 1.36+/-0.09/100 cells, respectively). Interestingly, we found that the chromosomal damage was prevalently expressed as chromatid-type aberrations. Chromosome painting indicated that the frequency of chromosome rearrangements (CR; translocations and dicentrics pooled together) was approximately comparable between radiological workers and the control group. Moreover, we did not detect any significant difference due to radiation exposure when CR rates were considered separately for each of the three chromosomes in the probe cocktail.