Analysis for chromosome aberrations in human peripheral blood lymphocytes has been developed as an indicator of dose from ionising radiation. This paper outlines the mechanism of production of aberrations, the technique for their analysis and the dose-effect relationships for various types of radiation. During the past ten years the National Radiological Protection Board has developed a service for the UK in which estimates of dose from chromosome aberration analysis are made on people known or suspected of being accidentally over-exposed. This service can provide estimates where no physical dosimeter was worn and is frequently able to resolve anomalous or disputed data from routine film badges. Several problems in the interpretation of chromososme aberration yields are reviewed. These include the effects of partial body irradiation and the response to variations in dose rate and the intermittent nature of some exposures. The dosimetry service is supported by a research programme which includes surveys of groups of patients irradiated for medical purposes. Two surveys are described. In the first, lymphocyte aberrations were examined in rheumatoid arthritis patients receiving intra-articular injections of colloidal radiogold or radioyttrium. A proportion of the nuclide leaked from the joint into the regional lymphatic system. In the second survey a comparison was made between the cytogenetic and physical estimates of whole body dose in patients receiving iodine 131 for thyroid carcinoma.