Serum copper, zinc, and the Cu/Zn ratio were measured in 55 patients with breast disease (20 with benign breast diseases and 35 patients with breast cancer) and 30 controls. The mean serum copper levels were higher in breast cancer than in benign breast diseases (167.3 micrograms/dl vs. 117.6 micrograms/dl) (P less than 0.001) and controls (167.3 micrograms/dl vs. 98.8 micrograms/dl) (P less than 0.001). Patients with advanced breast cancer had higher serum copper levels than did patients with early breast cancer (177.9 micrograms/dl vs. 130.4 micrograms/dl) (P less than 0.001). The mean serum zinc levels were lowered only in patients with advanced breast cancer as compared with controls (88.6 micrograms/dl vs. 115.1 micrograms/dl) (P less than 0.001). Serum zinc levels were not decreased in patients with early breast cancer and benign breast diseases. The Cu/Zn ratio was increased in breast cancer patients (1.91 vs. 0.86) (P less than 0.001) but not in patients with benign breast diseases. The precise mechanisms responsible for the alterations in trace element levels in breast cancer patients are still unclear and require further evaluation. However, the serum copper levels and the Cu/Zn ratio may be used as biochemical markers in these patients.