Monoclonal antibody SP-2 to the tumour-associated antigen 90K was generated by immunisation with conditioned medium of human breast cancer cells. We investigated whether circulating levels of 90K can influence the prognosis of patients with breast cancer. Serum samples were obtained from 425 patients with histologically proven breast cancer with no clinical evidence of disease after surgery (NED) and in 310 patients with metastatic disease. Serum 90K was determined by a new immunoradiometric assay (IRMA). Antigen levels in NED patients were elevated in 18.5% of cases, mean levels being higher than in healthy controls (P = 0.001). Among 375 evaluable patients, the 75-month overall survival for 90K-negative (< or = 11 U ml-1) and 90K-positive (> 11 U ml-1) patients was 78% and 53% respectively (P = 0.004). The prognostic value of 90K appeared to be limited to patients with node-positive disease. Number of metastatic axillary lymph nodes and level of 90K antigen were the only independent variables for predicting overall survival. Patients with metastatic breast cancer had elevated 90K in 51.3% of cases. High 90K levels were significantly associated with the presence of metastases to liver, shorter disease-free interval and younger age. We conclude that an elevated 90K antigen level in serum is a predictor of poor prognosis in breast cancer.