[F-18] 16 alpha-Fluoroestradiol (FES) has been shown to be a tracer of estrogen receptor content in breast tumors; however, quantitative analysis of FES images is complicated by the rapid metabolism of the tracer in vivo. To optimize FES PET imaging studies and to provide an input function for the quantitative analysis of the tracer FES uptake in breast tumors, we studied the clearance and metabolism of FES in 15 breast cancer patients. FES clearance, protein binding, and metabolite production and limited assays to determine the identity of labeled metabolites were performed. These studies show that FES was rapidly cleared from the blood and metabolized; at 20 min only 20% of the circulating radioactivity was unmetabolized FES, and much of this was protein bound. The detectable metabolites in either blood or urine are conjugation products, largely the glucuronide and the sulfate of FES, and these are excreted through the kidneys at a rate comparable to their introduction into the circulation. After 20 min postinjection the blood levels of radioactivity remain fairly constant. Our results, the first report on human metabolites, are in close agreement with previous animal studies of FES metabolism. These studies show that because FES clearance is rapid and metabolite background is nearly constant, imaging starting at 20 to 30 min after injection may provide good visualization of estrogen-containing tissues. Labeled metabolites need to be accounted for in quantifying FES uptake.