Paraffin embedded tissue sections and fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) are important methods for diagnosis. We compared thyroid tissue obtained by FNAB to paraffin embedded sections to determine whether there were differences in detection of the amounts of argyrophilic nucleolar organizing region (AgNOR) proteins. Twenty-two patients with papillary thyroid carcinoma were included in the study. Slides were prepared with both FNAB tissue and 3 mu m sections of paraffin embedded tissue, and stained for AgNOR. One hundred nuclei per individual were evaluated; total AgNOR number/nucleus (TAn/TNn) and total AgNOR area/nuclear area (TAa/TNa) of individual cells were determined. Mean TAn/TNn and TAa/TNa values were 4.800 +/- 1.118 and 13.382 +/- 2.612, respectively, for FNAB samples; corresponding values were 2.406 +/- 0.649 and 8.49 +/- 0.893, respectively, for paraffin embedded sections. The differences between FNAB materials and paraffin embedded tissue sections were significant for the mean TAn/TNn and TAa/TNa values. Significant differences in the amounts of AgNOR protein detected were found between FNAB and paraffin embedded tissue sections.