Comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) allows the detection of DNA sequence copy number changes on a genome-wide scale in a single hybridization reaction. The ability of CGH to be applied to formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tumor samples has lead to its widespread application in the cytogenetic analysis of archival material. When setting up CGH in the laboratory, rigorous control experiments must be carried out to ensure that the losses and gains are scored correctly. Groups interested in breast cancer frequently use the MCF-7 cell line as a positive control in these experiments, comparing the results to previously described genetic alterations. Here we present the results of CGH carried out with three stocks of MCF-7 cells. The cells differ widely in their proliferative response to 17-beta estradiol and show extensive variation in copy number changes affecting specific chromosomal regions. We suggest that care must be taken, therefore, when choosing a cell line as a positive control for CGH experiments.