Persistent oxidative stress and excess lipid peroxidation (LPO), induced by inflammatory processes, impaired metal storage, and/or dietary imbalance, cause accumulations and massive DNA damage. This massive DNA damage, along with deregulation of cell homeostasis, leads to malignant diseases. Reactive aldehydes produced by LPO, such as 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal, malondialdehyde, acrolein, and crotonaldehyde, react directly with DNA bases or generate bifunctional intermediates which form exocyclic DNA adducts. Modification of DNA bases by these electrophiles, yielding promutagenic exocyclic adducts, is thought to contribute to the mutagenic and carcinogenic effects associated with oxidative stress-induced LPO. Ultrasensitive detection methods have facilitated studies of the concentrations of promutagenic DNA adducts in human tissues, white blood cells, and urine, where they are excreted as modified nucleosides and bases. Thus, immunoaffinity-(32)P-postlabeling, high-performance liquid chromatography-electrochemical detection, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry, immunoslotblot assay, and immunohistochemistry have made it possible to detect background concentrations of adducts arising from endogenous LPO products in vivo and studies of their role in carcinogenesis. These background adduct levels in asymptomatic human tissues occur in the order of 1 adduct/10(8) and in organs affected by cancer-prone inflammatory diseases these can be 1 or 2 orders of magnitude higher. In this review, we critically discuss the accuracy of the available methods and their validation and summarize studies in which measurement of exocyclic adducts suggested new mechanisms of cancer causation, providing potential biomarkers for cancer risk assessment in humans with cancer-prone diseases.