Progress in identifying the important endogenous processes damaging DNA and developing methods to assay this damage in individuals is presented. This approach may aid studies on modulation of cancer and aging. The endogenous background level of oxidant-induced DNA damage in vivo has been assayed by measuring 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (oh8dG), thymine glycol and thymidine glycol in urine and oh8dG in DNA. oh8dG is one of about 20 adducts found on oxidizing DNA, e.g., by radiation. The level of oxidative DNA damage as measured by oh8dG in normal rat liver is shown to be extensive, especially in mtDNA (1/130,000 bases in nuclear DNA and 1/8,000 bases in mitochondrial DNA). We also discuss three hitherto unrecognized antioxidants in man.