Environmental carcinogens may play a role in the etiology of breast cancer, but the extent of their contribution is not yet defined. The aims of this study were to determine whether polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH)-DNA adducts could be detected in stored paraffin blocks of breast tumor tissue (n=147) with an immunoperoxidase technique and whether they correlated with smoking history and/or mutant p53 protein expression. There was no significant difference in mean relative nuclear staining intensity in non-smokers (444+/-90, n=75), ever smokers (435+/-91, n=72), and current smokers (456+/-98, n=35). In either current or ever smokers, PAH-DNA adducts were non-significantly elevated in those with greater compared with lower exposure in relation to age at started smoking, years of smoking, cigarettes per day, and pack years. DNA damage levels were not elevated in tissues with compared with those without mutant p53 protein expression. These data demonstrate that immunohistochemical methods can be used to monitor DNA damage levels in archived breast tissues.