Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is the most common soft tissue sarcoma of childhood and accounts for 10% of all solid tumors in children. There are three different histologic forms of this tumor: embryonal (RMS-E), alveolar (RMS-A), and primitive (RMS-P). Among these, the embryonal form has responded well to chemotherapy. Identification of the correct subtype is important for both the management and treatment of this malignancy. However, the histopathologic classification of RMS is sometimes difficult and distinguishing between the embryonic and primitive forms can present a diagnostic dilemma. Chromosomal abnormalities have been observed in all subtypes. We present the cytogenetic findings in six cases of RMS or related sarcoma. All four cases with RMS-A had both numerical and structural abnormalities in the tumor and involved bone marrow specimens. Three patients had a common marker, t(2;13)(q37;q14), and one patient had a variant marker involving 13q14, t(1;13) (p36;q14), and double minutes (dmin). The single embryonal RMS patient had modal chromosome numbers in the hypertriploid range and extensive structural abnormalities; the t(2;13) was not present, but translocation of 13q to both 1q and 2p was observed, der(1)t(1;13)(q21;q14) and der(2)t(2;13)(p25;q14). The patient with primitive type RMS had a hypodiploid line with several markers, including a complex translocation involving chromosomes 5 and 13 with a breakpoint at 13q14, and t(11;12)(q24;q12), a chromosome marker heretofore found only in Ewing's sarcoma and related tumors. This patient had atypical RMS with mixed neural and myogenic elements. The significance of these chromosomal markers and their importance in the characterization of childhood tumors are discussed, along with a review of the literature.