Tissue characterization for separating malignant from benign tissue is a clinically very important potential of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In this study quantitative determination of T1- and T2-relaxation processes was accomplished in five healthy volunteers, 10 patients with benign hyperplasia of the prostate gland and eight patients with prostatic carcinoma. Histological verification was obtained in all the patients. The measurements were performed on a wholebody MR-scanner operating at 1.5 T using six inversion recovery sequences (TR = 4000 msec) for T1-determination and a 32 spin-echo sequence (TR = 3000 or 2000 msec) for T2-estimation. The T1-relaxation curves all appeared monoexponential, whereas the T2-curves in most cases showed a multiexponential behaviour. A considerable overlap of the relaxation curves was seen. Consequently, we found no statistically significant differences between the T1- or the T2-relaxation times of the three groups investigated. It is concluded that tissue characterization based on relaxation time measurements with MRI does not seem to have a clinically useful role in prostatic disease.