Oestrone sulphate is a major source of active oestrogens in the breast. It is converted to oestrone by oestrone sulphatase. Breast cyst fluid (BCF) is a rich source of sex hormones and growth factors. BCF obtained from British women has been shown to inhibit oestrone sulphatase activity in the MCF-7 oestrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer cell line. The aim of the present study was to assess whether BCF obtained from Malaysian women inhibited oestrone sulphatase activity in the MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell lines. The cell lines were grown in supplemented Dulbecco's Modified Eagle Medium for 3 days, following which a 3-day incubation with sterilised BCF was carried out. At the end of the treatment period the cell monolayers were assayed for oestrone sulphatase activity and the number of cell nuclei counted on a Coulter Counter. BCF was also fractionated on a Bio-Sil SEC 125-5 column by HPLC and the effects of the fractions collected on oestrone sulphatase activity in the MDA-MB-231 cell line were assessed. All 18 samples of BCF tested inhibited cell growth in the MDA-MB-231 cell line while 8 out of 10 samples inhibited MCF-7 cell growth; 15 out of 18 BCF samples inhibited oestrone sulphatase activity in the MDA-MB-231 cell line whereas 5 out of 10 samples stimulated oestrone sulphatase activity in the MCF-7 cell line. HPLC fractions corresponding to molecular weights of > 158 kDa and 28 kDa were found to inhibit oestrone sulphatase activity in the MDA-MB-231 cell line. Further work is required to fully characterise these substances as they may have roles to play in the prevention of breast cancer.