Expression of the bcl-2 proto-oncogene was studied immunohistochemically in 251 invasive ductal breast carcinomas (median follow-up time 91 months, range 24-186 months) and the results were correlated with clinicopathological data and prognostic variables. Sixty-three (25%) tumours were scored bcl-2 negative and 188 (75%) tumours were bcl-2 positive. No relationship could be observed between bcl-2 status and tumour grade, pTNM staging or menopausal status. A strong positive relationship was demonstrated between bcl-2 immunoreactivity and oestrogen receptor status (P < 0.001) and progesterone receptor status (P < 0.001). No prognostic value was demonstrated for bcl-2 expression on disease-free survival and overall survival in axillary node-negative breast cancer patients. However, in axillary node-positive breast cancer patients multivariate analysis demonstrated absence of bcl-2 expression to be independently related to shortened disease-free survival (P = 0.003) and shortened overall survival (P < 0.001). Our results suggest a potential important role for bcl-2 expression as a modulator of response to adjuvant therapy in breast cancer.