Allelic losses on chromosome 16q in tumour cells are frequent in a variety of malignancies, suggesting the presence of one or more tumour-suppressor genes in the region. Among 210 sporadic breast cancers we examined using 15 microsatellite markers on the long arm of chromosome 16, heterozygosity for at least one locus was lost in 141 (67%). Detailed deletion mapping revealed two distinct commonly deleted regions. One region was defined as a 3-cM interval flanked by markers D16S512 and D16S515 at 16q22; the second consisted of a 9.5-cM interval flanked by markers D16S498 and D16S303 at q24.3. Allelic loss on 16q was observed frequently in small tumours, tumours without lymph node metastasis and tumours of the non-invasive histological type as well as in tumours of more advanced phenotype, suggesting that inactivation of one of at least two tumour-suppressor genes on 16q plays a role in early stage breast carcinogenesis.