ADAM-17 is a matrix metalloproteinase-like enzyme involved in the release of several ligands that have been shown to promote both cancer formation and progression. These ligands include transforming growth factor-alpha, amphiregulin, heparin-binding epidermal growth factor, epiregulin and tumor necrosis factor-alpha. In this investigation, we measured the expression of total ADAM-17 by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in 153 invasive breast cancers. We also measured the precursor and active forms by western blotting in 140 invasive breast cancers. Expression of ADAM-17 was significantly increased in high-grade compared with low-grade tumors and was independent of tumor size, lymph node metastasis and estrogen receptor status. Patients with high expression of ADAM-17 had a significantly shorter overall survival compared with those with low expression. Significantly, the prognostic impact of ADAM-17 was independent of conventional prognostic factors for breast cancer. Our results are further evidence that ADAM-17 is involved in breast cancer progression and thus provides further impetus for exploiting ADAM-17 as new target for cancer treatment.