Molecular abnormalities of the p53 gene in chromosome 17p may be among the most commonly observed in human cancer. Their role in gastric carcinogenesis is suggested by their frequent detection in invasive adenocarcinomas. To investigate the chronology with which these abnormalities appear in the gastric carcinogenesis process, the expression of p53 proteins was investigated in late stages of the process, namely dysplasia, and in superficial carcinomas. A polyclonal antibody, CM-1, against both wild-type and mutant proteins was applied to paraffin-embedded biopsy and gastrectomy specimens previously fixed in buffered formalin. Positive nuclear stain was obtained in 36.4% of 33 cases of gastric epithelial dysplasia, corresponding to 19% of mild, 27.3% of moderate, and 64.3% of severe dysplasias. Eight of 13 (61.5%) invasive carcinomas showed positive stain. The data indicate an increased incidence of p53 abnormalities in the late stages of gastric carcinogenesis.