Fragile sites are non-staining gaps and breaks in specific points of chromosomes that are inducible by various culture conditions. Previous studies have shown that various clastogenic agents increase expression of fragile sites. In this study, the expression of common fragile sites induced by aphidicolin was evaluated on prometaphase chromosomes obtained from peripheral blood lymphocytes. Chromosomal aberrations and fragile site expression of 60 individuals, including 20 patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), 20 of their clinically healthy family members, and 20 age-matched normal healthy controls without history of any cancer type were studied. Both the proportion of damaged cells (P < 0.001) and the mean number of gaps and breaks per cell (P < 0.001) were significantly higher in both the patients and relatives' groups when compared with the control group. However, they were insignificant when the patients were compared to their relatives (P > 0.05). We determined four aphidicolin type common fragile sites in our study. These sites in patients with NSCLC and relatives were the following: 1p21, 2q33, 3p14, and 16q23. In these fragile sites, 2q33, 3p14, and 16q23 sites were statistically significant when compared with control group (P < 0.001, P < 0.0005, and P < 0.05, respectively). Consequently, we believe that fragile site studies may be helpful to detection of cancer risk. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.