Karyotypic analysis of tumor specimens from 29 patients with untreated epithelial ovarian carcinoma was performed at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. Twenty-three of the twenty-nine tumors had adequate cells for analysis. Seventeen of these tumors exhibited chromosome abnormalities. Chromosome alterations were complex, with an average of seven different abnormal chromosomal patterns per tumor (range 2-14). Chromosomes 1 and 11 were the most commonly involved, being abnormal in 89 and 83% of tumors, respectively. Chromosomes 3 and 7 were also frequently abnormal. In contrast to invasive tumors, alterations in chromosomes 1 and 11 were not seen in the two tumors of borderline malignant potential. Evidence for DNA amplification of IGF2, Ha-ras-1, and c-ets was not observed. Amplification of the c-erbB-2 oncogene was present in two tumors. These findings indicate that multiple karyotypic abnormalities occur in untreated epithelial ovarian malignancies, with chromosomes 1 and 11 being the most frequently abnormal. These data also suggest that alterations of these chromosomes may be associated with the biologically aggressive behavior of frankly invasive ovarian tumors.