To determine whether the sister chromatid exchange (SCE) distributions obtained in lymphocytes and fibroblasts from different individuals are comparable, a controlled study was set up. Peripheral blood and skin biopsies were taken on the same day from five individuals living for years under the same environmental conditions. All samples were treated in the same fashion, and the SCEs were scored in 50 metaphases of peripheral blood lymphocytes and of skin fibroblasts in an early and in a late passage. A repeat blood sample was taken from the same five individuals 1 year later. Based on the results obtained in this first part of the study, five randomly chosen healthy blood donors were sampled at different times and studied in the same fashion. Each chromosome was identified, and the SCE scores were tabulated per chromosome over 50 metaphases. The statistical analysis consisted of fitting log linear models to these scores and examining the best fit by determining the exceedance probabilities (observed significance level). For lymphocytes, the results indicated that the SCE distributions depended only on the chromosome examined, and not on BrdU-exposure time, individuals, or time of sampling. Treatment with ethyl methane sulfonate (EMS) increased the number of SCEs proportionally on all chromosomes. Analysis of the SCE scores on lymphocytes and fibroblasts of the five individuals and on their low and high passage fibroblast cultures revealed the necessity of including higher order interactions in order to fit a suitable model to the data. Therefore comparison of the SCE scores of lymphocytes with those of fibroblasts or comparison of scores on fibroblasts from different individuals could not be done. In practice, to compare samples or individuals, it suffices to score the SCE on a limited number of chromosomes (e.G., the A group) of 50 metaphases.