Bcl-2 gene product functions to prevent apoptosis in a variety of in vitro and in vivo experiments. The prognostic significance of Bcl-2 protein expression was investigated by immunocytochemistry from paraffin-embedded tissue in a series of 174 women with breast cancer, treated with radical surgery with or without regional radiotherapy, and who had been followed up for the median of 31 years or until death. A minority (25%) of cancers were entirely negative for Bcl-2 protein. Moderate to strong Bcl-2 protein expression (present in 46%) was strongly associated with several favorable prognostic features, such as a low mitotic count, high histological grade of differentiation, and lack of p53 protein expression (P < 0.0001 for each). It was also significantly associated with lack of tumor necrosis, a low S-phase fraction size, low cathepsin D expression, DNA diploidy, and the lobular histological type, but not with the primary tumor size or the axillary nodal status. Women with cancer with moderate to strong Bcl-2 protein expression had more favorable short-term (69% versus 46% alive at 5 years) but similar long-term (29% versus 33% alive at 30 years) disease-specific survival as those with cancer with weak or lacking expression. Bcl-2 protein expression did not have independent prognostic value in a multivariate survival analysis. We conclude that Bcl-2 protein is frequently expressed in breast cancer, and its expression is associated with favorable clinicopathological features.