Between 1978 and 1985, 247 patients with primary breast cancer have been treated with breast conserving surgery and external beam radiotherapy. Median follow-up is 3 years and 9 months. Actuarial 5-year disease-free survival for the whole group is 72%; 16 patients (6.8%) have relapsed in the breast to date. Of these, 6 (38%) have died from breast cancer. Patients who have experienced a local recurrence have significantly worse survival than those who remain locally recurrence-free (p less than 0.001). Complication data are presented and shown to be almost entirely mild to moderate and in the range 1-19%. This series shows the breast conserving approach to be effective and at least equivalent to breast ablative procedures in early follow-up.