Loss of heterozygosity (LOH) from the short arm of chromosome 8 (8p) is frequent in many human cancers, including breast, colon, prostate, and bladder cancers. LOH occurs in two regions of 8p, 8p21 and 8p22, and suggests the presence of two separate tumor suppressor genes. In breast cancers, 8p LOH occurs in both early and late clinical stage tumors, while in colon, prostate, and bladder cancers, there is an association between 8p LOH and advanced clinical stage. We investigated this discrepancy by comparing 8p LOH in infiltrating ductal carcinomas (IDC) to breast cancers of earlier clinical stage, i.e., tumors with no invasion [ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)-only tumors]. We used three markers which sample several reported loci of 8p LOH. We microdissected tumor from paraffin blocks of 39 IDC and 23 DCIS-only breast cancers and amplified tumor/normal DNA pairs for the microsatellite markers D8S254 (8p22), D8S133 (8p21.3), and NEFL (8p21). All cases of IDC were informative with at least one marker, with a combined rate of LOH of 46%. The results for each marker were [no. LOH/no. informative (%)]: D8S254, 8/26 (31%); D8S133 12/31 (39%), and NEFL, 9/25 (36%). In the DCIS-only group, all 23 were informative for at least one marker, but 8p LOH was absent. We conclude that 8p LOH from 8p21-22 is frequent in IDC of the breast, but absent in DCIS-only cases, and may play a role in breast cancer progression by conferring invasive ability.