AIMS: The increasing use of breast-conserving therapy (BCT) and the rising incidence and improved prognosis of early breast are causing a substantial increase in the absolute number of patients with a late local recurrence following BCT. This study examined the characteristics and the prognosis of patients with a local recurrence occurring more than 5 years after BCT. METHODS: In the period 1982-1997, 3280 patients with invasive breast cancer underwent breast-conserving therapy in one of the eight community hospitals in the South-eastern part of The Netherlands. Of these patients, 98 developed a local recurrence in the breast more than 5 years after BCT. RESULTS: Eighty-five of the 98 recurrences were invasive, 12 were purely in situ and for one patient this information was not available. The 5 years distant recurrence-free survival rate of 85 patients with a late invasive local recurrence was 68% (95% confidence interval [CI], 56-80) and significantly better than the rate of 41% (95% CI, 33-48) in an existing cohort of 173 patients with invasive recurrence within 5 years after BCT (p=0.007). Local excision of the recurrence was followed by a significantly lower local control rate than salvage mastectomy (50 vs 89%; p=0.004). CONCLUSION: The prognosis of patients with a local recurrence more than 5 years after BCT is significantly better than of patients with local recurrence within 5 years after BCT.