Gelatin microspheres were prepared by water/oil emulsion polymerization and by cross-linking with glutaraldehyde. For the microsphere preparation procedure, two different gelatin (5 or 10% w/v) and three different glutaraldehyde (5, 0.5 or 0.1% v/v) concentrations were used. The influence of preparation compositions on microsphere recovery, particle size and morphology, swelling and degradation, 5-fluorouracil loading and release, and cytotoxicity were investigated. The concentrations of gelatin and glutaraldehyde influenced the size and surface properties of microspheres. The decrease in gelatin concentration and the increase in glutaraldehyde concentration resulted in the formation of smaller (140.82-71.47 mum for gelatin microspheres with a 5% gelatin content; 297.67-97.44 mum for gelatin microspheres with a 10% gelatin content) microspheres with smoother surface properties. Swelling values were decreased as the amount of glutaraldehyde was increased. In particular, for microspheres with a high glutaraldehyde content (5% v/v), only about 15% were degraded in 12 days, whereas for those with 0.5% (v/v) glutaraldehyde, almost 97% degradation occurred in the same period. The most rapid 5-fluorouracil release was observed from uncross-linked microspheres (about 88% in 4 h), whereas a particular slower release (about 36% in 4 h) profile was obtained for the highly cross-linked ones. Cytotoxicity tests of free and entrapped 5-fluorouracil were carried out with MCF-7 breast cancer cell line. Free 5-fluorouracil produced an immediate effect, whereas entrapped 5-fluorouracil showed a prolonged cytotoxic effect.