The expression of oestrogen receptor protein (ER) was examined in 151 cases of symptomatic or screening detected pure ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) of the breast by immunocytochemical assay (ERICA), in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue, with the monoclonal antibody H 222 (Abbott). Forty-eight tumours (31.8%) of cases were ER positive. Twenty-seven (17.9%) of cases showed high level ER expression and 21 (13.9%) of cases showed low level ER immunoreactivity. Significant associations of positive tumour ER immunoreactivity and non-comedo architecture chi 2 = 6.76; (d.f. = 1): P < 0.001, small cell size chi 2 = 4.49; (d.f. = 1): P = 0.034, higher S-phase fraction chi 2 = 4.71; (d.f. = 1): P = 0.03 and lack of c-erbB-2 protein overexpression chi 2 = 7.96; (d.f. = 1): P < 0.01 were identified. No significant associations of ER expression and patient age, histological grade of necrosis in DCIS, or DNA ploidy were found. ER expression is detectable in less than one third of symptomatic and screening detected cases of DCIS, implying that endocrine therapy of DCIS may be a more appropriate form of management for morphological subtypes of DCIS which show higher rates of oestrogen receptor expression, particularly those of non-comedo and small cell type.