Heat shock proteins (hsps) are thought to play important roles in the cell cycle and various processes of carcinogenesis. Therefore, we evaluated the expression of hsps, mainly hsp90 and hsp70, in human breast cancer tissues. Hsp90alpha mRNA was expressed at much higher levels in the cancerous tissue than in the non-cancerous tissue. In addition, a close correlation between hsp90alpha mRNA expression and the proliferating-cell-nuclear-antigen labeling index (PCNA LI) was observed for the cancerous tissue. These findings suggest that increased expression of the hsp90alpha isoform may play a role in cell proliferation. On the other hand, hsp90beta mRNA expression was significantly higher in poorly differentiated carcinomas than in well differentiated carcinomas of the breast. The intracellular localization of hsp70 was consistent with that of ubiquitin. In specimens showing hsp70 in the nucleus, the PCNA LI was significantly high. Hsc73 mRNA, a member of the hsp70 family, was also expressed at higher levels in cancerous tissues associated with a high PCNA LI than in non-cancerous tissues. These results suggest that hsp90alpha may play a role in cancer cell proliferation and that hsp90beta may contribute to cell differentiation and structural constitution. In addition, hsp70, especially hsc73, is related to ubiquitin and seems to be a marker for cancer proliferation.