In this investigation, we studied the expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and its association to apoptosis and angiogenesis in 43 in situ and 68 invasive breast carcinomas. Its expression was studied immunohistochemically using a polyclonal iNOS antibody, and the staining was evaluated both in tumor and stromal cells. Apoptosis was detected by 3' end labeling of fragmented DNA (terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated nick end labeling method). Vascularization was detected immunohistochemically using an antibody to the FVIII-related antigen, and calculated microvessel densities were determined. In addition to strong iNOS expression in stromal cells, iNOS positivity was observed in tumor cells in 46.5% of in situ and 58.8% of invasive carcinomas. In invasive carcinomas, there were more cases with iNOS positivity both in tumor and stromal cells compared to in situ carcinomas (0.007). The proportion of cases with iNOS-positive tumor cells increased in in situ carcinomas from grade I to III (20.0%, 46.2%, and 73.3%). In invasive ductal carcinomas, there were more cases with iNOS-positive tumor cells than with in situ carcinomas (P = 0.04). Carcinomas with both iNOS-positive tumor and stromal cells had a higher apoptotic index (P = 0.02) and a higher calculated microvessel densities index (P = 0.02). A high number of iNOS-positive stromal cells associated with metastatic disease (P = 0.05). The results show that breast carcinoma cells, in addition to stromal cells, express iNOS and are capable of producing NO. Carcinomas with iNOS-positive tumor and stromal cells have a higher apoptotic indices and increased vascularization, suggesting that iNOS contributes to promotion of apoptosis and angiogenesis in breast carcinoma. The association of the number of iNOS-positive stromal cells with metastatic disease might be attributable to stimulation of angiogenesis, resulting in a higher vascular density and consequently a higher probability for tumor cells to invade.