We studied the pattern of E-cadherin expression in 183 invasive carcinomas (100 ductal, 42 lobular, 41 with mixed ductal and lobular features) and 198 in situ carcinomas (131 ductal, 53 lobular, 14 in situ with ductal and lobular features) by immunohistochemistry. We found a highly significant correlation of E-cadherin membrane expression with the histologic phenotype of the tumors. While moderate to strong membrane expression of E-cadherin was seen in all invasive and in situ ductal carcinomas, 41 of 42 invasive and 50 of 53 in situ lobular carcinomas showed complete loss of expression. All in situ carcinomas diagnosed histologically as showing mixed ductal and lobular features demonstrated complete loss of staining. Invasive carcinomas with ductal and lobular features showed 3 staining patterns: (1) complete or almost complete lack of membrane staining similar to that seen in lobular carcinomas, (2) uniform membrane expression throughout the tumor similar to ductal carcinomas, and (3) focal loss of E-cadherin staining, which correlated well with the histologic impression of focal lobular features. In tumors with histologically equivocal features, immunohistochemical detection of E-cadherin expression can be a useful diagnostic tool for the differentiation of ductal and lobular carcinomas of the breast.