Estradiol receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) content along with the cytosol and plasma estrone and estradiol levels in 15 premenopausal and 26 postmenopausal women with breast cancer in different clinical stages (T123, N01, M0) were measured. ER-positive tumor frequency and the ER content tended to be higher in postmenopausal than in premenopausal patients. There was no evidence for a relationship between high cytosol estrogen levels and low receptor measurements. The estrogen concentration was higher in ER-positive tumor cytosols than in those of ER-negative tumors; the differences were significant in postmenopausal women, only, with P less than 0.05 for estrone and P less than 0.01 for estradiol values. Twelve pairs of tumor and normal tissue from the same breast, were also studied: seven of which contained ER-positive and five ER-negative tumors. The ER-positive tumors showed a clear trend to higher estradiol content as compared to the corresponding normal tissues. The circulating level of estradiol in postmenopausal women, was higher (P less than 0.05) in ER-positive tumors than that in ER-negative tumors. Our results indicate that: (a) false negative ER assays are not likely to be due to the presence of endogenous estrogens. (b) higher amounts of estrone and estradiol are contained in ER-positive tumors than in negative ones.