The improved survival in recent years of young males suffering from cancer, and an understanding of the gonadotoxic effects of chemotherapy treatment, have motivated patients and clinicians to preserve fertility potential before embarking on adjuvant therapy. Among 231 men (mean age 28.0; range 15-56 years) diagnosed with malignant disease and referred to our unit for semen cryopreservation, 112 patients (49.8%) had reduced sperm quality of <10 x 10(6) motile spermatozoa per ejaculate; however, most had sufficient suitable spermatozoa for freezing. In 40 patients (17.3 %) the semen samples were not frozen because of complete azoospermia (n = 32) or only immotile sperm in the ejaculate (n = 2), while six men were unable to produce a single sample. Some 79 men had testicular tumours (group I), 121 suffered from haematological malignancy (leukaemia or lymphoma; group II), and 27 had cancer of different causes (group III). Men in group I had significantly lower (P < 0.001) sperm quality compared with groups II and III. There was no difference between patients with seminoma and non-seminoma tumours. In the haematological malignancy group there was no difference in sperm parameters between leukaemia (n = 12) and lymphoma (n = 77) patients, but patients with Hodgkin's lymphoma had significantly lower sperm quality compared with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Following chemotherapy, six couples attended the clinic for assisted conception treatment using the frozen semen. Two had successful intrauterine insemination cycles which each resulted in delivery of a healthy girl; one couple had conceived in their first in-vitro fertilization (IVF) attempt, followed by delivery of healthy twins. Two women conceived after intracytoplasmic sperm injection treatment and the sixth woman achieved only biochemical pregnancy after numerous IVF and frozen embryo replacement cycles. We recommend that a properly designed programme for semen cryopreservation for cancer patients should be developed in leading tertiary assisted conception centres, which have adequate facilities and experience for cryopreservation and can offer the whole range of appropriate assisted reproductive treatment and counselling.