Based on an extensive cost-effectiveness analysis, the Dutch nation-wide breast cancer screening programme started in 1990, providing a biennial screen examination to women aged 50 to 69 years. The programme is monitored by the National Evaluation Team, which annually collects tabulated regional evaluation data to determine performance indicators. This study presents (trends in) the outcomes of initial and subsequent screening rounds, 1990-1995, and compares them to the predictions of the cost-effectiveness-analysis. Up to 1996, 88% of the target population was covered by the programme and more than 2.4 x 10(6) women were invited. The overall attendance rate was 77.5% with little differences between screening rounds and age groups; the highest rate was found in non-urbanised areas (82.4%). Of 1,000 initially (and 2 years thereafter) screened women, 13.4 (6.6) were referred for further investigation, 9.7 (4.4) were biopsied and 6.4 (3.4) had breast cancer. The positive predictive values of screen test and biopsy were 47% (51%) and 66% (78%), respectively. DCIS was diagnosed in 0.9 (0.5) and invasive cancers < or = 10 mm in 1.5 (1.0) per 1,000 screens. Lymph node metastases were found in 28% (24%) of the invasive cancers. Except the increasing attendance, which was much higher than expected, the results were fairly constant over the years. Contrary to initial screens, the results of subsequent screens did not fulfil expectations with regard to breast cancer detection and tumour size distribution. We conclude that the nation-wide screening programme is being implemented successfully. Given the results, the programme should contribute to a substantial breast cancer mortality reduction in the future. The discrepancy between observed and expected results in subsequent screens has to be watched carefully.