Background and purpose: Prediction of late normal tissue reactions to radiotherapy would permit tailoring of dosage to each patient. Measurement of residual DNA double strand breaks using pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) shows promise in this field. The aim of this study was to test the predictive potential of PFGE in a group of retrospectively studied breast cancer patients. Materials and methods: Thirty nine patients, treated uniformly for breast cancer 9-15 years previously, with excision of the tumour and radiotherapy to the breast and drainage areas, were assessed clinically using the LENT SOMA scale, and a 5-mm punch biopsy taken from the buttock. Fibroblast cell strains were established and used to study residual DNA double strand breaks, using PFGE. Results: There were significant correlations between the DNA assay results and the fibrosis score (r(s) = 0.46; P = 0.003), the combined fibrosis and retraction score (r(s) = 0.45, P = 0.004) and the overall LENT Score (r(s)=0.43; P = 0.006). Using polychotomous logistic regression, the fibroblast DNA assay result was an independent prognostic factor for fibrosis severity. Conclusions: There is a relationship between residual radiation-induced DNA damage in fibroblasts and the severity of the late normal tissue damage seen in the patients from whom the cells were cultured.