Fluorescence spectroscopy was applied to characterize normal, malignant and adipose breast tissues. Excitation, emission, and synchronized diffusive reflectance spectral scans were measured on over one hundred specimens for the purpose of developing an improved spectroscopic diagnostic technique. These techniques were able to successfully distinguish malignant tissue from adipose glandular fibrous and normal tissue. A sensitivity of 91% for fifty-six (56) malignant specimens with specificity of 91% for forty-six (46) benign tissue specimens has been achieved, using pathology as the golden standard.© (1996) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.