The autopsy findings of 428 patients with various histologic types of ovarian cancer were studied to determine if metastatic patterns were different. Epithelial tumors were the most frequent (89%), followed by sarcomas (7.2%). Germ cell and stromal tumors each occurred in 1.9% of cases. Sites of metastasis were nearly identical, with no statistical difference among histologic types. The peritoneum was most frequently involved (83% to 100% of cases), but lymph node metastasis was common (50% to 60% of cases). Metastasis was more common to the paraaortic lymph nodes than to the pelvic lymph nodes. In seven of eight stromal tumors, hepatic metastasis was present but did not cause the patient's death. For epithelial tumors, metastasis to distant sites was dependent on nodal and intraperitoneal disease. However, this was not true in the 31 ovarian sarcomas or the series of germ cell or stromal tumors. This finding supports a hematogenous route of metastasis for ovarian sarcomas. Understanding the metastatic potential of ovarian cancer is important in designing effective treatment regimens.