Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) methods and immunohistochemistry (IHC) are techniques that provide information on protein expression in tissue samples. Both methods have been used to investigate the impact of the plasminogen activation (PA) system in cancer. In the present paper we first compared the expression levels of uPA, tPA, PAI-1 and uPAR in a compound group consisting of 33 cancer lesions of various origin (breast, lung, colon, cervix and melanoma) as quantitated by ELISA and semi-quantitated by IHC. Secondly, the same kind of comparison was performed on a group of 23 melanoma lesions and a group of 28 breast carcinoma lesions. The two techniques were applied to adjacent parts of the same frozen tissue sample, enabling the comparison of results obtained on material of almost identical composition. Spearman correlation coefficients between IHC results and ELISA results for uPA, tPA, PAI-1 and uPAR varied between 0.41 and 0.78, and were higher for the compound group and the breast cancer group than for the melanoma group. Although a higher IHC score category was always associated with an increased median ELISA value, there was an overlap of ELISA values from different scoring classes. Hence, for the individual tumour cases the relation between ELISA and IHC is ambiguous. This indicates that the two techniques are not directly interchangeable and that their value for clinical purposes may be different.