The positivity rates of mRNA expression in breast cancer of the tumor-related genes for c-erbB2, PLU-1 and survivin are unclear. We quantitatively analyzed tissue samples from 39 breast cancers and non-cancerous parts of the same specimens for the above three mRNAs using a TaqMan reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Using the mean + 2SD of non-cancerous sample as a cut-off value, the positivity rates of the tumors for c-erbB2, PLU-1 and survivin were 20.5%, 7.7% and 69.2%, respectively. Combining consideration of survivin with c-erbB2 and or PLU-1 increased the positivity ratio (survivin plus either of others, 76.9%; survivin plus both, 79.5%). Analysis by histological type indicated that survivin showed the highest positivity in ductal carcinoma and that survivin and PLU-1 showed the same positivity rate (40.0%) in the five carcinomas classified histologically as either solid-tubular or mucinous. Further, all cases that were positive for PLU-1 were negative for survivin. Survivin mRNA expression appeared more useful as a marker for diagnosis of breast cancer than c-erbB2 or PLU-1. However, PLU-1 appeared to vary independently of survivin, enhancing the usefulness of assays considering both in combination.