The variability of MIB-1 measurements in breast cancer was assessed in histological sections from core and excision biopsies taken simultaneously in 13 cases and sequentially (with an intervening period of 2-3 weeks) in 17 cases. Results showed no significant differences in values between cores and sections, whether taken simultaneously or sequentially. Individual pairs of cores and sections occasionally demonstrated substantial differences. The mean ratio of MIB-1 scores between cores and sections was 0.97 [95% confidence interval (CI)=0.68-1.38]. However 95% confidence intervals for ratios within individuals were 0.14-6.68. Although the two samples can be equivalent on an average over numerous patients, they cannot be taken as equivalent within individuals. Severe heterogeneity complicates the assessment of MIB-1 in individual breast cancers and limits utility in monitoring changes in proliferation with treatment.