The activity of 17 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (17 beta HSD) was measured in human breast tumours and in normal breast tissue from premenopausal, perimenopausal and postmenopausal women. Enzyme activity was higher in tumour tissue than in normal tissue from the same breast and under the conditions of the assay the oxidation of oestradiol was higher than the reduction of oestrone. The physiological status of the women in the study did not relate to the activity of the enzyme in either normal or tumour tissue although fibroadenomas had less activity than adenocarcinomas. In postmenopausal women tumour tissue oestrogens were 2-3 fold higher than in normal tissue from the same breast. Furthermore, tumour tissue concentrations of oestradiol tended to be higher than those of oestrone although in normal tissue the two oestrogens were present in similar concentrations. In plasma from the same women oestrone was the predominant oestrogen. There appears to be no direct relationship between 17 beta HSD activity and oestrogen concentrations but the enzyme may play a part in determining the balance between oestrone and oestradiol according to substrate and cofactor availability.