Proliferative disorders of the endometrium may be associated with autocrine and paracrine actions between stromal and epithelial cells. To determine whether the stromal-epithelial relation with respect to oestrogen receptor (OR) and progesterone receptor (PR) is disturbed in (pre)malignant endometrium immunocytochemical OR and PR expression was quantitated by computerized image analysis. This was studied in the stromal and epithelial cells of endometrial specimens diagnosed as hyperplasia (n = 14), atypical hyperplasia (n = 16), and adenocarcinoma (n = 33). Paraffin sections were used for optimal preservation of histomorphology. A progressive loss of OR and PR content occurred with increasing malignant transformation. Stromal cells in atypical hyperplasia (P = 0.0007) and well-differentiated adenocarcinoma (P = 0.0008) exhibited a relative loss of PR content as compared with epithelial cells (P = 0.036 and P = 0.17, respectively). In atypical hyperplasia, the decrease in stromal PR content was not in parallel with persistent stromal OR immunostaining. Furthermore, stromal PR expression in atypical hyperplasia was significantly (P = 0.004) lower than in the surrounding hyperplasia, whereas the stromal OR staining as well as the epithelial OR and PR staining did not differ significantly. These observations may reflect a disturbance in hormonal interrelationships between endometrial cells in the development of endometrial neoplasia, indicating that stroma may modulate epithelial growth by paracrine mechanisms.