We have analysed the organisation of the retinoblastoma (RB1) gene in 77 primary breast carcinomas, in metastatic tissue derived from 16 of those primary tumours, and in a variety of benign breast lesions. Expression of RB1 was also assessed in most samples by immunohistochemical detection of the RB1 protein in tissue sections. Structural abnormalities to RB1 were detected in DNA from 15/77 (19%) of primary breast carcinomas examined. Where DNA was available from metastatic tissue derived from such primary tumours, the same aberration could be detected. No alterations were seen in benign breast lesions. 16/56 (29%) of tumours examined for expression by immunohistochemical methods showed a proportion of tumour cells to be completely negative for the RB1 protein. All tumours in which a structural alteration to RB1 was detected had a proportion of negative cells, except for one case where all cells were positive. Several primary tumour samples were identified where there was no detectable structural change to the gene, but there was loss of expression in some tumour cells. The data presented here demonstrate that changes to the RB1 gene leading to loss of expression of both alleles are frequent in primary human breast tumours.