The tumour growth kinetics (cell proliferation and apoptosis) of ten hormone-refractory locally recurrent prostate cancers were compared with their matched untreated primary tumour specimens. All recurrent tumours had a higher cell proliferation activity, as defined by Ki-67 immunohistochemistry, than corresponding primary tumours from the same patients. The mean cell proliferation activity in recurrences (13.5 +/- 3.8 per cent) was over two times higher (P < 0.0001) than that in primary tumours (5.5 +/- 2.4 per cent), suggesting that cell clones which progress during androgen withdrawal are actively stimulated to proliferate. The mean percentage of apoptotic cells, as estimated by the in situ end-labelling technique, was 5.4 +/- 4.7 per cent in untreated primary tumours, whereas it was 2.3 +/- 1.5 per cent in locally recurrent tumours (P = 0.05). In all but two cases, the apoptotic index was lower in recurrent than in corresponding primary tumours, suggesting that recurrent prostate carcinomas are able to avoid apoptosis in the androgen-deprived environment. In conclusion, the clinical progression of prostate cancer during androgen withdrawal is associated with increased cell proliferation and decreased apoptosis.