Geographical variation in the standardized years of potential life lost ratio (SYPLR) in women aged 20-74 dying from breast cancer has been mapped by local authority district in England and Wales and compared with the variation as described by the standardized mortality ratio (SMR). The geographical distribution of areas of low and high SMRs is similar to that observed some 15 years earlier, showing an increase from north to south. In contrast, the pattern of SYPLRs shows a less obvious trend. Years of life lost because of breast cancer mortality were particularly high in eight of the 401 county districts (SYPLR 1.22-1.48) and particularly low in nine (0.60-0.86). Mapping SYPLRs for breast cancer gives a different pattern from mapping SMRs, and one which is possibly more appropriate for targeting resources in circumstances in which death at younger age will have major social consequences. Care is required in interpreting maps indicating high and low rates in the presence of multiple comparisons. However, the range of values observed is suggestive of the need to investigate districts with contrasting values of SYPLR with respect to the inter-relationships between sociodemographic characteristics, duration of symptoms, clinical presentation and treatment efficacy.