The entire experience of in situ breast cancer in Alberta from 1953 to 1984 was examined. Of 243 patients coded, 226 were available for review by a panel of three pathologists. In 149 cases the diagnosis of in situ disease was confirmed. One hundred and eight patients had 109 ductal carcinomas in situ, 38 patients had lobular carcinomas in situ, with 3 patients having both. A multitude of treatments was used, ranging from local excision to radical mastectomy. Survival at a mean of 6 years follow-up was equal in all groups, with only two patients with a confirmed diagnosis of ductal carcinoma in situ dying from clinically suspected systemic disease. In patients treated by local excision, ipsilateral cancers were seen in 12% of ductal carcinoma in situ patients who had local excision and 13% of patients with lobular carcinoma in situ. Contralateral metachronous invasive cancers were seen in 6% of ductal carcinoma in situ patients and 3% of lobular carcinoma in situ patients. No lymph node involvement was seen in any of these patients, either with prophylactic dissection or in follow-up. The conclusion reached was that both in situ lesions are similar in their clinical course. Lymph node dissection is not necessary. Pathologic review is critical for accurate studies, with a change in diagnosis of 36% of diagnoses. Treatment does not appear to affect prognosis. The most appropriate treatment needs to be determined in prospective randomized trials.