The immunohistochemical demonstration of oestrogen receptor (OR) was performed on 32 randomly selected and routinely processed breast carcinomas after wet autoclave pretreatment of sections. The autoclave method was compared to the OR status found on frozen sections as well as to alternative pretreatment methods such as enzymatic predigestion and microwave irradiation. Using four different monoclonal antibody clones (H222, LH1, CC4-5, 1D5.26), the OR status was evaluated for each of the various pretreatment methods applied. All cases with a high OR content on frozen sections (n = 11) also showed a high OR status on wet autoclave-pretreated paraffin tissues using antibody clones 1D5.26 and CC4-5; in cases with low OR content on frozen sections, no false-negative cases were recorded using only the antibody 1D5.26 neither after wet autoclave nor microwave pretreatment. In addition, with this antibody, OR was detectable after autoclave pretreatment in two cases which were considered to be OR-negative even on frozen sections. When the primary antibody was omitted, no false-positive cases were observed after wet autoclave pretreatment. Thus, in our hands, wet autoclave pretreatment, in combination with the antibody 1D5.26, offers a highly sensitive method for the immunohistochemical demonstration of OR in routinely formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded sections of breast carcinomas.