The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and its ligands are thought to be important in the control of proliferation of many epithelial systems, including the exocrine pancreas. Abnormalities in expression of two of the known ligands of the EGFR, transforming growth factor alpha and epidermal growth factor, occur frequently in ductal adenocarcinoma of the human pancreas. We have examined an archival series of cases of pancreatic pathology for expression of the EGFR using the anti-EGFR antiserum 12E and found that there is almost ubiquitous overexpression of EGFR in pancreatic cancer and in chronic pancreatitis. Southern blot analysis showed no evidence of amplification or rearrangement of the EGFR gene. We conclude that an autocrine loop involving the EGFR system may be involved in the genesis of both neoplasia and reactive hyperplasia of pancreatic ductal epithelium.