Carcinogenesis is considered to be a multi-step process that may involve cumulative genetic alterations. One such alteration, gain of chromosomal material, has the potential for activating genes that promote carcinogenesis in breast tissues. Using 14 polymorphic microsatellite markers on the long arm of chromosome 8 (8q), we examined 142 sporadic breast cancers for abnormalities in the copy-numbers of these loci. At each locus examined, a 2- to 3-fold increase in intensities of bands representing single alleles was observed in 57 (40%) of the tumors, indicating that 'multiplication' of the DNA sequence had occurred on 8q. A 16-cM region on 8q24.1 was commonly multiplied among the tumors with partial multiplications. Multiplication on 8q24.1 was observed more frequently in invasive solid-tubular or scirrhous tumors (48/92, 52%) than in less aggressive histologic types (7/25, 28%, P = 0.031). Thus, multiplication of tumor-promoting gene(s) located on 8q24.1 may play a role in the development and/or progression of a substantial proportion of primary breast cancers, particularly those of the invasive histology.