We analysed antibodies specific for human p53 in sera from primary breast cancer patients using three different immunoassays and we related these results to the p53 level in tumour tissue detected by immunohistochemistry. Only 44% (11/25) of apparently enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)-positive sera were from patients with a high level of p53 protein in more than 50% of their tumour cells. Surprisingly, 36% (9/25) of the sera originated from patients with no detectable p53 protein at all. Immunoprecipitation data suggested that the reason for this discrepancy is that at least some of the antibodies detected as positive in the ELISA in these sera from patients with clinical stage I and stage II breast cancers may be induced by immunogens other than p53 protein. Many of these reactions give apparently positive signals in a variety of p53 assays, and very stringent analysis is required to avoid possible misinterpretation of these responses as a p53-specific B-cell response in human cancer patients.