The present study reports on the frequency of MDM2 gene amplification and MDM2 protein expression in a series of 100 breast carcinomas and its association with accumulation of the p53 protein. Of the 100 cases, frozen samples for 82 cases were available for Southern blotting. Three of the 82 (4%) demonstrated MDM2 gene amplification of up to 6-fold. Immunohistochemical analysis of the formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tumours demonstrated that 7/97 (7%) had nuclear expression for MDM2 in 10-50% of the tumour cells (type 2 staining) and were denoted MDM2+. Two of the MDM2-amplified samples were MDM2+ with one of the two tumours also displaying type 2 p53 nuclear staining. Finally at the protein level, MDM2+ tumours were significantly associated with tumours having low levels of p53 staining (0-10% cells positive) (P = 0.03). We conclude that MDM2 gene amplification occurs at a lower frequency in breast cancer than in non-epithelial tumours. Alterations in MDM2 and p53 may represent alternative pathways in tumorigenesis, but they are not mutually exclusive in all cases.