The vascularity of 49 renal masses (26 malignant and 23 benign lesions) was investigated with duplex Doppler ultrasound. Doppler signals obtained at the margins of renal masses were defined as "tumor signals" when the Doppler-shifted frequency of the lesion exceeded the frequency shift in the ipsilateral main renal artery. These exceeded 2.5 kHz with a 3-MHz insonating frequency. Among the 26 renal masses that subsequently proved to be malignant, tumor signals were obtained in 15 of 18 (83%) untreated renal cell carcinomas, in three of four Wilms tumors, and in two patients with metastases to the kidney, but not in the one patient with lymphoma. None of the 23 benign renal masses demonstrated tumor signals. Tumor vascularity in malignant lesions gives rise to abnormal, high-velocity, Doppler-shifted signals that can help in the differential diagnosis of renal masses.