Flow cytometry allows rapid and accurate analysis of the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) content of a large number of cells. In solid tumors, the presence of aneuploidy has been shown to correlate wall with the presence of neoplastic cells. Both cytologic examination and DNA analysis by flow cytometry were performed on pleural effusions from 33 patients. Results of the two examinations were in agreement in 10 of 12 malignant pleural effusion (two false-negatives) and in 20 of 21 benign effusions. One patient with cirrhosis, ascites and Nocardia pneumonia had hypodiploid cells (false-positive) in the pleural fluid. All patients who had a malignancy, but whose pleural effusion proved to be due to a benign cause, had cells with normal DNA content in their pleural effusion. DNA analysis using flow cytometry can be rapidly performed and is highly specific and sensitive. The finding of hyperdiploid cells is highly suggestive of malignancy.