To analyse the clinical significance of the presence of androgen receptors (AR) in breast carcinomas, clinical and histological parameters of 153 primary breast carcinomas (median follow-up 46 months) were examined. Oestrogen (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) levels were determined in cytosol preparations using enzyme immunoassay assays and in cryostat sections by immunohistochemistry. AR and Ki-67 levels were only determined immunohistochemically. Data were analysed by uni- and multivariate models. 94/153 (61%) breast carcinomas were ER+ PR+ AR+, while 14 cases were only positive for AR. All grade III tumours (n = 17) were steroid receptor negative and 14 (76%) of these cases demonstrated high Ki-67 values suggestive of more aggressive behaviour. Strikingly, 14 ductal carcinomas negative for ER and PR were positive for AR. In univariate analysis, AR as well as ER, tumour size, lymph node status, grade and Ki-67 proved to be significant prognostic factors for disease-free survival (DFS). Multivariate analysis, however, showed lymph node status, tumour size and ER status to be the only independent prognostic factors for DFS within this model. We conclude that simple histological and cell biological parameters, including AR, can be used to select high- and low-risk patients at the time of primary surgery and can provide valuable information on treatment options.