BACKGROUND: A number of protein markers have been investigated as prognostic adjuncts in breast cancer but their translation into clinical practice has been impeded by a lack of appropriate validation. Recently, we showed that BCL2 protein expression had prognostic power independent of current used standards. Here, we present the results of a meta-analysis of the association between BCL2 expression and both disease free survival (DFS) and overall survival (OS) in female breast cancer. METHODS: Reports published in 1994-2006 were selected for the meta-analysis using a search of PubMed. Studies that investigated the role of BCL2 expression by immunohistochemistry with a sample size greater than 100 were included. Seventeen papers reported the results of 18 different series including 5,892 cases with an average median follow-up of 92.1 months. RESULTS: Eight studies investigated DFS unadjusted for other variables in 2,285 cases. The relative hazard estimates ranged from 0.85 - 3.03 with a combined random effects estimate of 1.66 (95%CI 1.25 - 2.22). The effect of BCL2 on DFS adjusted for other prognostic factors was reported in 11 studies and the pooled random effects hazard ratio estimate was 1.58 (95%CI 1.29-1.94). OS was investigated unadjusted for other variables in eight studies incorporating 3,910 cases. The hazard estimates ranged from 0.99-4.31 with a pooled estimate of risk of 1.64 (95%CI 1.36-2.0). OS adjusted for other parameters was evaluated in nine series comprising 3,624 cases and the estimates for these studies ranged from 1.10 to 2.49 with a pooled estimate of 1.37 (95%CI 1.19-1.58). CONCLUSION: The meta-analysis strongly supports the prognostic role of BCL2 as assessed by immunohistochemistry in breast cancer and shows that this effect is independent of lymph node status, tumour size and tumour grade as well as a range of other biological variables on multi-variate analysis. Large prospective studies are now needed to establish the clinical utility of BCL2 as an independent prognostic marker.