Estrone and estradiol levels in tumor tissue cytosols were determined in 11 premenopausal and 20 postmenopausal women at the same time that 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase and estrogen receptors (ER) were carried out on their breast cancers. Estrogen receptor positive tumors showed significantly higher levels of estrone and estradiol. However, all ER negative tumors contained measurable amounts of both estradiol and estrone. Higher levels of estrone were observed in ER negative tumors which correlates well with high 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase activity. These results suggest that false negative receptor assays in the premenopausal women is not likely to be due to occupancy of receptors by endogenous estrogens. Furthermore, the higher estrone content in the ER negative group is probably due to high 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase activity inherent to these tumor cells.