Summary. A group of 118 women underwent laser cone biopsy. Data were collected routinely on proforma case notes and entered into a computerized database. The histology of the cone biopsies was compared with that of previous, colposcopically directed punch biopsies, with the cytology of smears taken in the clinic and with the colposcopic diagnosis. The punch biopsy had a 54% false negative rate and neither of the two microinvasive carcinomas biopsied in this way were detected by the biopsy. Ten of 24 women with negative punch biopsies had CIN III in the cone. When the punch biopsy showed CIN II or worse, the cone biopsy confirmed the presence of CIN in 86%. There was some evidence of false negative cone biopsies. The data suggest that management should not be based solely upon the punch biopsy result but should include consideration of the cytology and colposcopy findings. Excisional methods of treatment are more likely to reveal early invasion and adenocarcinoma-in-situ.