Previous workers have used counts of colloidal silver-stained nucleolar organizer regions (AgNORs) to help distinguish reactive from malignant mesothelial processes. We sought to compare the demanding technique of AgNOR counting with the identification of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) in 10 pleural malignant mesotheliomas and 11 reactive mesothelial proliferations. The mean AgNOR count was significantly higher in malignant compared to reactive lesions (5.10 [95% confidence interval, CI 4.35-5.84] vs 3.68 [95% CI 3.17-4.19], p = 0.004), as was the PCNA index (26.9 [95% CI 17.37-36.49] vs 9.67 [95% CI 4.94-14.39], p = 0.004). Less overlap was seen with PCNA indices and no reactive mesothelial proliferations had a PCNA index greater than 20%, suggesting that scores over this level may be a specific indicator of malignancy in this setting. There was only a weak correlation between the 2 proliferation indices suggesting that PCNA and AgNORs are present at somewhat different times of the cell cycle and/or persist in the post-S phase cell for variable lengths of time.