Pan masala (PM), a dried powdered mixture containing ingredients like areca nut, catechu, lime, cardamom and flavouring agents, is consumed abundantly by Indians and is also exported to Western countries. Pan masala with tobacco (PM-T) is also available on the market. In view of the role of the ingredients of PM in the causation of oral diseases the possible harmful effects of consuming this complex mixture were analysed in individuals regularly consuming PM and among healthy non consuming controls without any habit. Three cytogenetic endpoints and two tissues were employed to assess possible DNA damage. Sister chromatid exchange and chromosome aberrations were estimated in the peripheral blood lymphocytes, tissues indirectly exposed to the substance and the frequency of micronucleated cells was scored in the tissue directly in contact with PM, i.e. the exfoliated buccal mucosa cells. All three cytogenetic endpoints demonstrated a statistically significant increase (P less than 0.001) among the PM consumers as compared with the non-consuming controls.