Human papilloma viruses (HPVs) are accepted as being carcinogenic in human cervical and anogenital cancers. The suspicion that HPVs may also have a role in human breast cancer is based on the identification of HPVs in human breast tumours and the immortalisation of normal human breast cells by HPV types 16 and 18. For this investigation, DNA that had been previously extracted and fresh frozen at - 70 degrees C from 50 unselected invasive ductal breast cancer specimens were screened by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for HPV type 16, 18 and 33 gene sequences. We show that HPV 18 gene sequences are present in DNA extracted from breast tumours in Australian women. Overall, 24 (48%) of the 50 samples were HPV positive. Overall no correlations with tumour grade, patient survival, steroid receptor status, ERB-2, p53 expression and mutation were observed. Human papilloma viruses may have a role in human breast cancer. We speculate that HPVs may be transmitted by hand from the female perineum to the breast.