The aim of this study was to evaluate the use of [(18)F]fluorothymidine (FLT) as a positron emission tomography (PET) tracer for the diagnosis of breast cancer. To this end, 12 patients with 14 primary breast cancer lesions (T2-T4) were studied by FLT-PET. For comparison, [(18)F]fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) PET scans were performed in six patients. Thirteen of the 14 primary tumours demonstrated focally increased FLT uptake (SUV(mean)=3.4+/-1.1). Seven out of eight patients with histologically proven axillary lymph node metastases showed focally increased FLT uptake in the corresponding areas (SUV(mean)=2.4+/-1.2). The lowest SUV (mean =0.7) was observed in one of two inflammatory cancers. The contrast between primary tumours or metastases and surrounding tissue was high in most cases. In direct comparison to FDG-PET, the SUVs of primary tumours (5/6) and axillary lymph node metastases (3/4) were lower in FLT-PET (SUV(FLT): 3.2 vs SUV(FDG): 4.7 in primary tumours and SUV(FLT): 2.9 vs SUV(FDG): 4.6 in lymph node metastases). Since FLT uptake in surrounding breast tissue was also lower, tumour contrast was comparable to that with FDG. It is of note that normal FLT uptake was very low in the mediastinum, resulting in a higher tumour-to-mediastinum ratio as compared to FDG ( P=0.03). FLT-PET is suitable for the diagnosis of primary breast cancer and locoregional metastases. High image contrast may facilitate the detection of small foci, especially in the mediastinum.