Non-invasive and invasive papillary transitional cell carcinomas of stages pTa and pT1 represent the first steps of tumour progression in bladder cancer. In order to analyse different chromosomal alterations of pTa and pT1 superficial bladder cancer, 46 tumour specimens were examined by comparative genomic hybridization (CGH). Losses of chromosome 9 material (11/20) and gains of chromosome 17 material (6/20) were frequently found in pTa tumours. Stage pT1 tumours were characterized by gains of chromosome 1q (14/26; including amplification at 1q21-q24 in three cases) and chromosome 17 material (15/26), as well as by losses of 11p (15/26) and 11q (13/26). Other loci frequently showing losses in pT1 tumours were 2q (9/26), 4q (10/26), 5q (9/26), 8p (10/26), 9p (9/26), 9q (12/26), 10q (8/26), 17p (7/26), and 18q (8/26). Amplifications were detected at 8q21/22, 5q21, 7q36, 10p14, 10p12, 10q25, 12q12, and 12q14. The most striking differences between grade 2 pTa and pT1 tumours were gains of 1q (P < 0.01) and losses at 2q (P < 0.025), 10q (P < 0.05), 11p (P < 0.01), 11q (P < 0.01), and 17p (P < 0.05), as well as the total number of aberrations (pTa grade 2: 4.1; pT1 grade 2: 8.6 aberrations per tumour). These data show characteristic chromosomal aberrations associated with invasion in superficial bladder cancer.