The labelling index is commonly used as a measure of proliferation. However, the use of tritiated thymidine or BrdU labelling of S-phase cells is limited to prospective samples. We have employed an oligonucleotide cocktail complementary to the mRNA species encoding the replication-dependent histones H2B, H3 and H4 for non-isotopic in situ hybridization (NISH), and have compared the resultant proliferation indices in normal skin with those obtained by bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) incorporation and by Ki67 immunohistochemistry (IHC) using the monoclonal antibody MIB1. In addition, we compared the staining characteristics of histone NISH and Ki67 IHC in a further 25 samples from a variety of inflammatory dermatoses and neoplastic conditions, as well as from normal skin. In normal skin, S-phase (histone NISH and BrdU) and cycling (Ki67) cells were confined to the basal and low suprabasal layers. The labelling indices determined by histone NISH and BrdU incorporation were similar, whereas that of Ki67 IHC was four times greater. In biopsies from hyperproliferative dermatoses and dysplastic or malignant lesions, the number of histone NISH- and Ki67 IHC-positive cells was generally elevated; in accordance with the differential expression of these two markers during the cell cycle, MIB1 consistently gave higher results. The advantage of histone NISH over Ki67 IHC is that it is a marker of the same part of the cell cycle as BrdU incorporation. However, the combined use of both histone NISH and Ki67 IHC to measure two cell cycle parameters, namely S-phase and the number of cycling cells, allows more detailed retrospective study of epidermal proliferation than has been possible previously.