Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) is a powerful tool for quantitative analysis of chromosomes and genes and can be applied in a variety of specimens, including cell cultures, isolated nuclei from fresh and fixed tissues, and histological tissue sections. However, the results of FISH analysis of isolated nuclei in prostate cancer have not been previously compared with those from histological sections from the paraffin-embedded tissue blocks. To compare these methods, we studied isolated nuclei derived from 50-microns sections and adjacent 5-microns tissue sections from 10 cases of benign nodular hyperplasia of the prostate and 16 cases of prostatic carcinoma. FISH analysis employed centromere-specific probes for chromosomes 7, 8, 11, and 12. In benign tissue, the percentage of nuclei with three or more signals for chromosomes 7, 8, 11, and 12 was less than 3% for both isolated nuclei and tissue sections. However, the percentage of nuclei with no and one signals was less than 8% for isolated nuclei and more than 24% for tissue sections. In prostatic carcinoma, numeric chromosomal anomalies were found in 75% of cases by both FISH methods. However, isolated nuclei had more chromosomal tetrasomy than tissue sections (mean, 9.2 to 11.0% versus 5.1 to 5.6%, respectively). Conversely, intratumor heterogeneity of chromosomal anomalies was identified in 5 cases by FISH analysis of tissue sections but not in isolated nuclei. Cancer ploidy analysis by FISH correlated well with ploidy analysis by flow cytometry, although FISH was more sensitive for aneuploidy. We conclude that FISH analysis of isolated nuclei and histological tissue sections from paraffin blocks are reliable methods for detection of chromosomal anomalies in archival tissue of prostate cancer, although each method has advantages and disadvantages.