A controlled clinical trial has been carried out to compare radical mastectomy with wide excision (extended tylectomy) in the treatment of early breast cancer. Only patients aged 50 and over were included and 370 entered the trial during a period of 10 years. Postoperative radiotherapy was given in each case. In patients with clinically involved axillary nodes there was a significantly higher incidence of local and distant recurrence in those having a wide excision, and the survival of these patients was significantly less than those who had a radical mastectomy. In patients with clinically uninvolved nodes, although there was a significantly higher incidence of local recurrence in those having a wide excision, there was no increased incidence of distant recurrence and the survival rate was similar to those having a radical mastectomy.