The aim of this study was to determine if the differences observed in the levels of DNA damage in a group of patients suffering from chronic renal failure are due to differences in the repair capability. DNA damage was initially measured with the comet assay in 106 hemodialysis patients. A selected group of 21 patients representing high (ten patients) and low (11 patients) levels of DNA damage were obtained for determination of base excision repair capacity. This was measured in an in vitro assay where protein extracts from lymphocytes were incubated with a substrate of DNA containing 8-oxoguanine, and the rate of incision was measured with the comet assay. Patients with high levels of genomic damage showed, as an average, significantly lower repair capacity (1273 +/- 184) in comparison with patients with low levels of genomic damage (1813 +/- 113). Nevertheless, the correlation coefficient between repair ability and levels of genomic damage was found to be only close to the significance value (r:-0423, p: 0056). Although DNA damage was clearly related to time on hemodialysis, base excision repair capacity was not. This is one of the few studies providing information on the repair capacity of chronic renal failure patients undergoing hemodialysis. As a summary, our results would indicate that DNA damage levels are in part associated to the repair capacity of the patients, and this repair capacity is not associated with the duration of hemodialysis treatment.