The purpose of our study was to assess prospectively the value of MRI in characterization of soft tissue tumors (STT) and soft tissue tumor-like lesions in a multi-institutional setting by a group of experts. The material consisted of 548 untreated and proven STT or tumor-like lesions originating from a multi-institutional database of STT in which 930 consecutive patients with STT examined by MRI were registered between 1 January 2001 and 28 April 2003. Based on MRI findings, a suitably ordered differential diagnosis was made in consensus by two radiologists (J.L.M.A.G and A. M. D. S). MRI diagnoses were compared with histology results ( 455 cases, 83%) and/or 6-month follow-up ( 93 cases, 17%) as reference standards. The correlation between the MRI and histological diagnosis and between the radiological and histological phenotype were statistically determined. One hundred twenty-three patients presented with a malignant STT; 425 patients presented with a benign one. Concerning differentiation between malignant and benign lesions ( dignity), a sensitivity of 93%, specificity of 82%, negative predictive value (NPV) of 98% and positive predictive value (PPV) of 60% with accuracy of 85% were obtained. Concerning phenotype characterization, if only the first MRI diagnosis was taken into account, a sensitivity of 67%, specificity of 98%, NPV of 98%, PPV of 70% and accuracy of 96% were obtained. For benign lesions, sensitivity of 75%, specificity of 98%, NPV of 98%, PPV of 76% and accuracy of 97% were obtained. The phenotype's definition of malignant STT had a sensitivity of 37%, a specificity of 96%, NPV of 96%, PPV of 40% and an accuracy of 92%. A correct diagnosis compared with histological assessment was proposed in 227( 50%) of the 455 histologically confirmed cases. Despite non-quantified MR parameter evaluation, the results of our prospective study were better than those reported in previous studies and demonstrated the need for a centralized approach to such rare pathology.