Deletions on chromosomes 1p and 19q identify oligodendroglial tumours that are likely to have a complete response to some chemotherapy regimens and are associated with prolonged patient survival. Detection of these chromosomal alterations is becoming increasingly important in the evaluation of glial tumours. Interphase fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) is one of a number of techniques for detecting deletions, and is an efficient method for screening large numbers of tumours. We used FISH to detect 1p and 19q deletions in formalin-fixed paraffin sections of 11 oligodendrogliomas, 11 oligoastrocytomas, two astrocytomas and four glioblastomas multiforme. 1p and 19q deletion and non-deletion ratios were tabulated in 200 nuclei in each tumour. We found considerable variation between tumours in the fraction of cells with deletions. This variation has not been reported previously and its clinical significance will be clarified with patient follow-up. There was little variation between regions within the same tumour.