Chrysophanol (1,8-dihydroxy-3-methylanthraquinone) is one of the anthraquinone compounds, and it has been shown to induce cell death in different types of cancer cells. The effects of chrysophanol on human lung cancer cell death have not been well studied. The purpose of this study is to examine chrysophanol-induced cytotoxic effects and also to investigate such influences that involved apoptosis or necrosis in A549 human lung cancer cells in vitro. Our results indicated that chrysophanol decreased the viable A549 cells in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Chrysophanol also promoted the release of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and Ca2+ and decreased the levels of mitochondria membrane potential (ΔΨm) and adenosine triphosphate in A549 cells. Furthermore, chrysophanol triggered DNA damage by using Comet assay and DAPI staining. Importantly, chrysophanol only stimulated the cytocheome c release, but it did not activate other apoptosis-associated protein levels including caspase-3, caspase-8, Apaf-1, and AIF. In conclusion, human lung cancer A549 cells treated with chrysophanol exhibited a cellular pattern associated with necrotic cell death and not apoptosis in vitro. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Environ Toxicol 29: 740–749, 2014.