Both ascorbic acid and epigallocatechin gallate, which is one of the key polyphenols contained in green tea leaves, have been considered excellent antioxidants. The present study compared the efficacy as antioxidants between the two agents on an equimolar basis. Cells of two lymphoid lines were used as test material to determine the reduction of chromosome damage induced by the radiomimetic antibiotic bleomycin. Without bleomycin, both agents, at concentrations of 10(-7), 10(-6), 10(-5), and 10(-4) M, showed chromosome damage similar to the untreated controls. With bleomycin, the weakest concentration of both showed no protective effect. At concentrations of 10(-6) and 10(-5) M, especially the latter, a significant reduction in frequencies of chromatid breaks was recorded. However, at the highest concentration, 10(-4) M, the chromatid break frequencies rose to the same level as that of cells treated with bleomycin alone, suggesting that both behaved like pro-oxidants.