Background: Cytogenetic biomarkers are essential for assessing environmental exposure, and reflect adverse human health effects such as cellular damage. Arsenic is a potential clastogen and aneugen. In general, the majority of the studies on clastogenic effects of arsenic are based on frequency of micronuclei (MN) study in peripheral lymphocytes, urothelial and oral epithelial cells. To find out the most suitable cell type, here, we compared cytogenetic damage through MN assay in (a) various populations exposed to arsenic through drinking water retrieved from literature review, as also (b) arsenic-induced Bowen's patients from our own survey. Results: For literature review, we have searched the Pubmed database for English language journal articles using the following keywords: "arsenic", "micronuclei", "drinking water", and "human" in various combinations. We have selected 13 studies consistent with our inclusion criteria that measured micronuclei in either one or more of the above-mentioned three cell types, in human samples. Compared to urothelial and buccal mucosa cells, the median effect sizes measured by the difference between people with exposed and unexposed, lymphocyte based MN counts were found to be stronger. This general pattern pooled from 10 studies was consistent with our own set of three earlier studies. MN counts were also found to be stronger for lymphocytes even in arsenic-induced Bowen's patients (cases) compared to control individuals having arsenic-induced non-cancerous skin lesions. Conclusion: Overall, it can be concluded that MN in lymphocytes may be superior to other epithelial cells for studying arsenic-induced cytogenetic damage. © 2008 Ghosh et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.