Surgical resection currently offers the best chance for cure of non-small cell lung cancer but its efficacy is limited by subsequent tumor recurrence. Even the most favorable cancers (T1N0 tumors) recur 20% to 30% of the time within 5 years and there is currently no way to anticipate precisely which tumors will recur. To test whether DNA flow cytometric study might be useful in this regard, the authors performed a retrospective case-control study of 102 tumors (51 recurrent cases and 51 controls) from a prospective registry of patients with completely resected, meticulously staged T1N0 non-small cell carcinomas. Unbiased relative hazard ratios of recurrence were estimated for ploidy and proliferative rate, as well as for tumor histologic type and clinical variables. Ploidy abnormalities were slightly more common among cases (67%) than controls (57%) but this difference was not statistically significant. Estimation of proliferative rates was possible for 85 tumors but there was no significant difference between cases and controls and proliferative rates were not prognostic of recurrence. In multivariate analyses, the observed predictive value for each of the flow cytometric parameters was modest at best and smaller than that seen for tumor histologic type. These results suggest that flow cytometric analysis has limited value in guiding management of patients with early stage non-small cell carcinoma.