DNA damage induced by UV radiation and visible light (290-500 nm) in AS52 Chinese hamster cells was analysed by an alkaline elution assay with specific repair endonucleases. Cells were exposed to extensively filtered monochrome or broad-band radiation. Between 290 and 315 nm, the ratio of base modifications sensitive to Fpg protein (i.e. 8-hydroxyguanine and formamidopyrimidines) and T4 endonuclease V (i.e. cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers) was constant (approximately 1:200), indicating that the direct excitation of DNA is responsible for both types of damage in this range of the spectrum. While the yield of pyrimidine dimers per unit dose continued to decrease exponentially beyond 315 nm, the yield of Fpg-sensitive modifications increased to a second maximum between 400 and 450 nm. The damage spectrum in this wavelength range consisted of only a few other modifications (strand breaks, abasic sites and pyrimidine modifications sensitive to endonuclease III) and is attributed to endogenous photosensitizers that give rise to oxidative DNA damage via singlet oxygen and/or type I reactions. The generation of Fpg-sensitive modifications by visible light was not linear with dose but followed a saturation curve. It is calculated that the exposure of the cells to low doses of solar radiation results in the formation of cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers and Fpg-sensitive modifications in a ratio of 10:1.