The aim of this study was to determine whether the metastatic potential of breast cancer could be related to phenotypic characteristics of the tumour. Therefore, we compared the metastatic patterns of invasive lobular (ILC) and ductal (IDC) carcinomas. In ILC, we also analysed this pattern according to the histological subtype of the primary and the E-cadherin (EC) expression level. Metastatic ILC cases (n=96) were retrospectively analysed and classified into classical, alveolar, solid, tubulo-lobular, signet ring cells or pleomorphic subtypes. Anatomical distribution of metastases was detailed for every patient and compared with that registered for IDC (n=2749). Immunostaining of EC (HECD1 antibody) was performed in 82 cases. Histologically, 78 of the 96 cases (81%) corresponded to classical ILC. The pleomorphic subtype was observed in 14 cases (15%), a rate that was higher than that expected. Others corresponded to alveolar (2 cases), signet ring cell (1 case) and solid (1 case) subtypes. EC was undetectable in 72/82 cases (88%). The rate of multiple metastases was higher in ILC (25.0%) than in IDC (15.8%) (P=0.016). Metastases were found more frequently in ILC than in IDC in the bone (P=0.02) and/or in various other sites (peritoneum, ovary, digestive tract, skin em leader ) (P<0.001). In ILC, no significant link was found between the localisation(s) of metastases, the histological subtype and the EC status in the primary. In conclusion, in breast carcinomas, the frequency of multiple metastasis was found to be higher in ILC than IDC. This fact may be related to the phenotypic trait of discohesive small cells which characterises ILC. EC loss, observed in most cases of ILC, may result in alterations in cell-cell adhesion and a preferential growth at metastatic sites. A high rate of pleomorphic tumours was observed in the group of metastatic ILC, but the pattern of metastatic site(s) was not related to the histological subtype of the primary.