The epidermal-growth-factor receptor (EGF-r) and its ligands are involved in the control of proliferation of both normal and neoplastic thyroid epithelium. Autocrine stimulation of growth involving this receptor system has been identified in several types of human neoplasia and we were interested to determine whether it might occur in human thyroid tumours. We have therefore examined an archival series of thyroid tumours and non-neoplastic pathologies for expression of the EGF-r and 2 of its ligands, transforming growth factor alpha (TGF-alpha) and epidermal growth factor (EGF), using immunohistochemistry. We found evidence of expression of both the EGF-r and the TGF-alpha in the majority of thyroid tumours, with a trend to higher expression in more malignant neoplasms. We also found variable levels of expression of EGF-r and TGF-alpha in all cases of thyroiditis examined. We conclude that there is a potential autocrine loop involving the EGF-r system in both neoplastic and non-neoplastic conditions of the human thyroid.