Several studies indicate that the short arm of chromosome 17 is one of the most frequently altered regions in sporadic breast carcinomas (45-60%). In the present report the 17p13.3-ter locus in tumour DNA of breast cancer patients, along with their matching normal lymphocyte DNA, have been mapped with four markers (D17S5, D17S379, ABR and D17S34), spanning nearly 3 cM of the telomer. Sixty-five of 143 heterozygous tumours had lost at least one of the markers at the minimum region of loss (45%). High levels of loss of these distal markers on 17p13.3 are independent of TP53 mutations and are associated with tumour cell proliferation. A follow-up period of over 7 years demonstrates that loss of these markers correlates both with disease-free (P = 0.004) and overall survival (P = 0.007). In addition we show that for disease-free survival the prognostic power of this genetic alteration is second only to axillary lymph node involvement (3.1 vs 6.3 relative risk), and is a better predictor than the mutational status of TP53 (1.6 relative risk). Our results are further evidence of the presence, within the region, of at least a second tumour suppressor gene distal to TP53, that might be targeted by deletions.