The clinical importance of microvessel quantitation as a prognostic indicator in invasive breast cancer was examined. This study included 155 patients with invasive breast cancer, with a median follow-up of 82 months. Microvessels were identified by immunohistochemical staining for factor VIII-related antigen in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded primary tumours. For each tumour, microvessels were counted within a 200 x magnification field in the area of highest microvessel density. Microvessel counts (MVCs) had no correlation with tumour size, lymph node status or histological grade. When patients were classified by MVC, higher counts were associated with shorter disease-free survival and overall survival (P < 0.025 and P < 0.01 respectively). Multivariate analysis showed that MCV is an independent prognostic factor. Microvessel quantitation may be a useful predictor for identifying breast cancer patients at high risk for relapse and death.