Forty-two male patients with alcoholic liver disease were studied for iron status by indirect hematological assays, including red cell ferritin (RCF), and histochemical estimations. Serum iron and ferritin, total iron-binding capacity levels were unrelated to iron deposits, whereas RCF concentration was a good index of iron stores as detected by direct assessment on bone marrow and liver biopsy specimens. A relatively high proportion of alcoholics (19%) were iron-deficient. Alcoholic patients with cirrhosis exhibited higher RCF values than patients with alcoholic hepatitis. However, this increase was apparently unrelated to cirrhosis per se. In alcoholics we found that RCF was mainly related to levels of bone marrow iron. The increased RCF values observed in patients with hepatic siderosis was mediated by marrow iron stores. RCF can therefore be regarded as a useful test to distinguish patients with liver siderosis and normal values of bone marrow iron.