We report the preliminary results of a prospective study aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of Down syndrome (DS) screening using second-trimester measurement of maternal serum human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) and unconjugated oestriol (uE3) together with maternal age. Reference values for hCG, uE3, and the hCG/uE3 ratio in normal pregnancies were established from more than 3000 normal gestations and found to follow a log-normal statistical distribution. Risk evaluation was made using reference values for affected pregnancies from retrospective studies. Screening of 10,000 women under 38 years resulted in 412 amniocenteses and the prenatal diagnosis of six cases of DS, whereas four cases remained undetected until term. In a parallel study, diagnostic amniocentesis was performed in women over 38 years and in women with a previous affected child, and an evaluation of the risk of fetal DS based on serum hCG and uE3 levels was made in all cases. Fourteen cases of DS were detected. Median values for hCG and uE3 in the 24 affected pregnancies were close to the 90th and tenth centiles of the normal reference values, respectively, and thus are in good agreement with the values reported by others in retrospective studies.