The global DNA methylation status was investigated on a series of 59 breast cancers by Southern blotting, using methylation sensitive restriction enzymes. By comparison to control DNA, almost all tumor DNAs were found globally hypomethylated. However, the demethylation was variable from tumor to tumor. Compared to other biological parameters, the methylation did not correlate with chromosome alterations, steroid hormone receptor status, or histopathological grading. Tumors which appeared to be the most evolved for other parameters were only mildly hypomethylated, whereas tumors with strongly hypomethylated DNA corresponded to those with slight alterations of the other parameters. Thus, DNA hypomethylation is a consistent characteristic of breast cancer, but its variations may not correlate with tumor progression of most breast cancers.