Thirteen patients with malignant head and neck tumors were studied before they were treated with (18F) fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) imaging and DNA flow cytometry (FCM). The nuclear DNA content and the percentage of proliferative cells (S + G2/M) were compared with the FDG uptake; FDG was retained in the primary tumor and/or neck metastasis in all patients. The accumulation of FDG did not correlate with histologic grade of the tumors, but there was a clear correlation (r = 0.86, P less than 0.001) between the proportion of the cells in S + G2/M phases of the cell cycle and the intensity of FDG accumulation. The uptake of FDG by the tumor also correlated with the percentage of S-phase cells (r = 0.82, P less than 0.001). The result suggests that enhanced glucose metabolism, measured by FDG uptake, is associated with the proliferative activity of the tumor. Thus, imaging with FDG may offer a new method to assess the aggressiveness of human cancer growth in vivo.