The single cell gel test (SCG test or comet assay) was used to study DNA damage in peripheral white blood cells (WBC) of humans after a single bout of exhaustive exercise and the effect of vitamin supplementation. Human subjects were asked to run on a treadmill until exhaustion and blood samples were taken before and 24 h after the run. A clear increase in DNA strand breakage was observed in the 24-h sample of all probands. A short-term application of multivitamin pills or vitamin E (3 x 800 mg) resulted in a significantly smaller increase of DNA effects in WBC of some probands. When the volunteers were given a supplement of vitamin E (1200 mg daily) for 14 days prior to a run, exercise-induced DNA damage was clearly reduced in all probands. In four out of five subjects, vitamin supplementation completely prevented the induction of DNA damage after exhaustive exercise. Intake of vitamin E for 14 days led to a clear increase in vitamin E serum concentrations. Malondialdehyde (MDA), a marker of lipid peroxidation, was measured in the serum of probands in tests with and without vitamin supplementation for 14 days. MDA concentrations were significantly decreased following vitamin E supplementation but not significantly changed 15 min and 24 h after a run. Our results demonstrate that vitamin E prevents exercise-induced DNA damage and indicate that DNA breakage occurs in WBC after exhaustive exercise as a consequence of oxidative stress.