AIMS: To examine long term survival of women with primary and recurrent cervical carcinoma in relation to (1) excretion of beta-core (a urinary metabolite of beta human chorionic gonadotrophin (beta hCG)) and (2) beta hCG immunostaining of the tumours, to determine the suitability of these markers for assessing prognosis. METHODS: This was a prospective observational study undertaken in a gynaecological oncology centre: 57 women with primary cervical cancer and 42 with recurrent disease were recruited between January 1990 and September 1992. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis with the log rank test was used to assess survival differences with survival rate given per year of follow up. RESULTS: In primary disease, the four year survival for the beta-core negative group was 79%, compared with 14% for the beta-core positive group (p = 0.001). This was still significant for early stage disease or squamous lesions alone. In recurrent disease, beta-core positivity was not prognostically significant. Immunohistochemistry was of no prognostic significance in either group. CONCLUSIONS: beta-core excretion appears to be useful in assessing prognosis of primary cervical cancer but not of recurrent disease. A large prospective study of urinary beta-core in early stage cervical cancer is needed to determine whether it can be used as an index for modifying treatment.