DNA amplification seems to be particularly frequent in human breast tumours and has been associated with cancer evolution and aggressiveness. Recent data indicate that new events should be added to the list, such as the amplifications at chromosome 20q13 or the MDM2 gene. The present work aimed at determining the incidence and clinicopathological signification of these amplifications in a large series of breast and ovarian tumours. We tested 1371 breast and 179 ovarian tumours by Southern blotting and observed amplification of 20q13 in 5.4% breast and 2.8% ovarian carcinomas, whereas MDM2 was found amplified in 5.3% and 3.8% of breast and ovarian tumours respectively. MDM2 RNA expression levels were analysed in a subset of 57 breast tumours and overexpression was observed in 4/57 (7%) of the tumours. Elevated expression levels coincided with amplification of the gene. In breast cancer, 20q13 and MDM2 amplifications seem to define subsets of aggressive tumours. Indeed, 20q13 was correlated to axillary nodal involvement and occurred preferentially in younger patients (< 50 years). Furthermore, 20q13 correlated, as did MDM2 amplification, to aneuploidy. In parallel, we had also tested our tumour DNAs for amplification of CCND1, ERBB-2 and MYC, which made it possible to test for correlations with 20q13 or MDM2 amplifications. Whereas 20q13 showed a very strong correlation to CCND1 amplification, that of MDM2 was prevalent in MYC-amplified tumours. Interestingly, 20q13 and MDM2 amplifications showed some degree of correlation to each other, which may possibly be owing to the fact that both events occurred preferentially in aneuploid tumours. In ovarian cancer, no statistically significant correlation was observed. However, 20q13 amplification occurred preferentially in stage 3 tumours and MDM2 was correlated to ERBB-2 amplification. This may suggest that in ovarian tumours also, 20q13 and MDM2 amplifications occur in late or aggressive cancers.