Background: The potential doubling time of a tumor has been suggested to be a measurement of tumor aggressiveness; therefore, it is of interest to find reliable methods to estimate this time. Because of variability in length of the various cell cycle phases, stochastic modeling of the cell cycle might be a suitable approach. Methods: The relative movement curve and the DNA synthesis time were estimated by using local polynomial regression methods. Further, the rate of nucleotide incorporation was estimated by using a Markov pure birth process with one absorbing state to model the progression of the DNA distribution through S phase. Results: An estimate of the DNA synthesis time, with confidence intervals, was obtained from the relative movement curve. The Markov approach provided an estimate of the distribution of the time to complete S phase given the initial distribution. Using the Markov approach we also made an estimate of the mean number of active replicons during S phase. Conclusions: A Markov pure birth process has shown to be useful to model the progression of cells through S phase and to increase knowledge about the variability in the length of S phase and a large variation is shown.