AIMS: To investigate the pattern of epidermal growth factor receptor expression and its prognostic value in the three main types of cervical carcinoma. METHODS: 62 cases of stage IB/IIA cervical carcinoma, all with a minimum of five years of follow up, were studied. Representative sections were stained for mucin to permit accurate tumour typing and a standard avidin-biotin immunoperoxidase technique using the polyclonal antibody 12E was used to demonstrate the presence of epidermal growth factor receptor. RESULTS: A proportion of all three tumour types expressed epidermal growth factor receptor, it being most common in squamous cell carcinomas (50%). Overall, there was a correlation between epidermal growth factor expression and mortality. This was particularly obvious in the absence of lymph node metastases. When the individual tumour types were considered this association with prognosis was not demonstrable for squamous cell carcinomas or adenocarcinomas but was a very prominent feature of adenosquamous carcinomas. CONCLUSIONS: Immunohistochemical demonstration of epidermal growth factor receptor expression may be useful in identifying those patients with a poor prognosis, particularly those with adenosquamous carcinomas which have not metastasised to the regional lymph nodes.