To evaluate the impact of MHC antigen expression on the survival of patients with cancer, 77 human breast carcinomas were investigated for the expression of beta 2-microglobulin (beta 2m), HLA-A,B,C and HLA-DR. Thirty-one benign breast tumours were stained for comparison. The results for the carcinomas were related to the survival data of the cancer patients. The expression of beta 2m, HLA-A,B,C and HLA-DR was significantly lower in malignant tumours compared to the benign lesions. Whereas all benign tumours were positive for beta 2m and HLA-A,B,C and 28/31 positive for HLA-DR the following positivity rates were found in carcinomas: 74/77 for beta 2m, 57/77 for HLA-A,B,C and 10/77 for HLA-DR. The follow-up (median 45 months) of 66 cancer patients for overall survival and of 65 patients for disease-free survival revealed no influence of beta 2m, HLA-A,B,C or HLA-DR expression on the prognosis of this cancer. In conclusion, experimental data indicating the importance of MHC antigens in anti-tumour responses are not confirmed by the analysis of cancer patient survival data.