The analysis of chromosomal imbalances in solid tumors using comparative genetic hybridization (CGH) has gained much attention. A survey of the literature suggests that CGH is more sensitive in detecting copy number aberrations than is karyotyping, although careful comparisons between CGH and cytogenetics have not been performed. Here, we compared cytogenetics and CGH in 29 invasive breast cancers after converting the karyotypes into net copy number gains and losses. We found 15 tumors (56%) with a significant agreement between the two methods and 12 tumors (44%) where the methods were in disagreement (two cases failed CGH analysis). Interestingly, in 13 of the 15 tumors where the two methods were concordant, there was also a strong correlation between chromosome index and DNA index by flow cytometry. In the opposite situation, i.e., when chromosome and DNA indices were not matching, there was disagreement between cytogenetics and CGH in 10 of the 12 tumors. Of the discordant cases, all except one had a "simple" abnormal karyotype. Unresolved chromosomal aberrations (marker chromosomes, homogeneously staining regions, double minutes) could not completely explain the differences between CGH and karyotyping. A likely explanation for the discrepancies is that the methods analyzed different cell populations. Gains and losses found by CGH represented the predominant (often aneuploid) clone, whereas the abnormal, near-diploid karyotypes represented minor cell clone(s), which, for unknown reasons, had a growth advantage in vitro.