The expression of growth factors, such as transforming growth factor alpha (TGF alpha), amphiregulin (AR) and CRIPTO, a type-1 tyrosine-kinase growth factor receptor (erbB-2), and a tumor-suppressor gene (p53), that have been implicated in the development and/or the progression of breast cancer, was evaluated by immunohistochemistry in 100 human primary infiltrating breast carcinomas (IBC). AR and CRIPTO immunoreactivity was also assessed in 55 human breast ductal carcinomas in situ (DCIS). Within the 100 IBC, 80, 50, 73, 17, and 34 tumors expressed moderate to high levels of TGF alpha, AR, CRIPTO, erbB-2, and p53 respectively. In addition, AR and CRIPTO immunoreactivity were found in 11 and in 26 out of 55 DCIS respectively. In contrast, only 4, 3, and 2 out of 10 normal mammary-gland samples were weakly positive for TGF alpha, AR, and CRIPTO expression, respectively, whereas none was positive for erbB-2 or p53. Within the 100 IBC, expression of erbB-2 significantly correlated with high histologic and nuclear grading, with high growth fraction, and with estrogen-receptor (ER)- and progesterone-receptor (PgR)-negative tumors. A statistically significant correlation was also observed between p53 expression and high histologic grading, high growth fraction, and PgR-negative tumors. In contrast, no significant correlations were found between TGF alpha, AR, and CRIPTO immunoreactivity and various clinicopathological parameters, with the exception of a positive correlation between TGF alpha and ER expression. These data demonstrate that TGF alpha, AR, and CRIPTO expression are significantly increased in malignant mammary epithelium relative to normal epithelium. In particular, the differential expression of CRIPTO may serve as a potential tumor marker for breast carcinogenesis.