The introduction of a concept proposing multiple cellular subgroups in the normal female breast, including cytokeratin 5/6 (Ck 5/6)-positive progenitor cells, offers a new explanation for the existence of highly aggressive breast cancers with and without Ck 5/6 expression. Using the tissue microarray technique, 166 breast cancer cases, all characterized by comparative genomic hybridization, were evaluated by immunohistochemistry, using 15 different antibodies (estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, p53, Ki-67, c-erbB2, epidermal growth factor receptor, cyclins A, D1, and E, bcl-2, p21, p27, Ck 5/6, Ck 8/18, and smooth muscle actin) and chromogenic in situ hybridization for c-erbB2. Biomathematical cluster analysis was applied to confirm the conventional interpretation of the results by an independent approach. Ck 5/6-positive breast carcinomas were in general negative for estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor, were highly proliferating (as reflected by Ki67 and cyclin A), and were associated with specific protein expression patterns, such as expression of p53 and epithelial growth factor receptor (all related to more aggressive tumor behavior), which could further be demonstrated by biomathematical cluster analysis. In contrast Ck 5/6-negative breast carcinomas revealed a lower tumor proliferation rate, an increased expression of p21, p27, c-erbB2, and bcl-2, and a significantly lower number of genetic alterations, with losses of chromosomal material of 16q as the most common genetic alteration. Our data give the first hints to the hypothesis that different cellular subgroups in the female breast give rise to subgroups of breast carcinomas with differing protein expression and cytogenetic alteration patterns that may be related to clinical behavior.