To investigate the possible role of positron emission tomography (PET) with fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) in the prognostic evaluation of primary breast cancer, we studied 86 patients with T1-3 (TNM classification) breast tumours before surgery and compared the tumour FDG uptake, calculated as a standardized uptake value (SUV), with postoperative histopathological findings, steroid hormone receptor status of the tumour, thymidine labelling index (LI) and tissular expression of p53. SUV was significantly higher in infiltrating ductal carcinomas (n = 68; median SUV = 5.6) than in lobular ones (n = 18; median SUV = 3.8), and in grade 3 carcinomas (n = 26; median SUV = 6.2) than in grade 1-2 ones (n = 60; median SUV = 4.9). Moreover, SUV was significantly higher in carcinomas with high levels of p53 (n = 12; median SUV = 9.5) than in those with low levels (n = 48; median SUV = 4.25). By contrast, there was no significant correlation between SUV and the steroid hormone receptor status or LI of tumours. Our data demonstrate that FDG uptake, expressed as SUV, is associated with certain prognostic factors in breast cancer, such as histopathological grading and p53 expression, which can be assessed only by means of postoperative in vitro examinations. Hence, the information provided by FDG-PET is to some extent related to relevant information on tumour biology. The clinical value of these data will have to be confirmed by analysis of the independence of SUV from other prognostic factors by means of a multivariate analysis performed on a larger series of patients with adequate follow-up. If SUV is confirmed as an independent variable, FDG-PET could assume an important role in the determination of appropriate therapeutic strategies for primary breast cancer.