Fibrosis is the formation of excess and abnormal fibrous connective tissue as a result of either a reparative or reactive process. A defining feature of connective tissue is its extracellular matrix, which provides structural support and also influences cellular activity. Two common human conditions that result from fibrosis are uterine fibroids (leiomyomas) and keloid scars. Because these conditions share a number of similarities and because their growth is due primarily to excessive extracellular matrix deposition, we compared the proteoglycans of uterine fibroids and keloid scars with corresponding normal tissues. Our analysis indicates that uterine fibroids and keloid scars contain higher amounts of glycosaminoglycans relative to normal myometrium and normal adult skin respectively. Proteoglycan composition is also different in the fibrotic tissues. Compared with unaffected tissues, uterine fibroids and keloid scars contain higher relative amounts of versican and lower relative amounts of decorin. There is also evidence for a higher level of versican catabolism in the fibrotic tissues compared with unaffected tissues. These qualitative and quantitative proteoglycan differences may play a role in the expansion of these fibroses and in their excessive matrix deposition and matrix disorganization, due to effects on cell proliferation, TGF (transforming growth factor)-β signalling and/or collagen fibril formation. © The Authors Journal compilation © 2012 Biochemical Society.