We examined the stage specificity and heterogeneity of 18p11 alterations in a series of tumors representing 96 microdissected samples. Significant loss of heterozygosity (LOH) (63%) was found, with 56% occurring early in ductal carcinoma in situ. Although most cases indicated LOH was clonally inherited, heterogeneity for 18p LOH occurred in 27% of tumors. When compared with other LOH data, 18p LOH was found in conjunction with allelic deletion on 3p, 9p, 17p and 17q, while 13q, 16q, and 11p were less frequently associated. These analyses suggest chromosome 18p11 alteration is a common and early event in breast disease.