This study was undertaken to better comprehend the reasons for the scarcity of Hodgkin and Reed-Sternberg (H-RS) cells in Hodgkin's disease (HD) despite their expression of "proliferation-associated antigens". To this end, we assessed the relative frequency of mitotic phases and nuclear damage (detected by in situ end-labeling of DNA strand breaks) in CD30+ large cells of nodular sclerosis and mixed cellularity HD. Our results show that a) most CD30+ cells in HD exhibit abortive mitoses, with a highly significant arrest at the metaphase-ana/telophase transition, and b) many of these elements, i.e. mainly H-RS cells, show fragmentation of nuclear DNA, suggesting imminent or actual death. Percentages of CD30+ cells that entered mitosis and those with DNA strand breaks were of a similar order of magnitude and correlated significantly in a linear fashion. These findings are consistent with the concept that cell deletion is the major cause of the paucity of H-RS cells in HD.