We studied 54 patients diagnosed with endometrial cancer between 1981 and 1994 following a diagnosis of breast cancer. We used a case-case analysis, comparing tumors with and without overexpression of the p53 gene product to evaluate the association of putative p53 mutations with tamoxifen use and other risk factors for endometrial cancer. Twenty-four % of the tumors showed strong positive staining for the p53 gene product. Tumors in a more advanced stage (stage 2, 3, or 4, compared to stage 1) were more likely to overexpress p53 [odds ratio (OR) = 4.2; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.1-16.2], as were tumors with serous or clear cell, compared to endometrioid, histology (OR = 5.8; 95% CI, 1.3-26.5). There was a small association between p53 overexpression and treatment with tamoxifen for breast cancer (OR = 2.6; 95% CI, 0.69-9.8). There was a strong relationship between overexpression of p53 and having a first-degree relative with breast cancer (OR = 12.3; 95% CI, 2.6-57.4) and between overexpression of p53 and having an additional cancer, i.e., at sites other than breast or endometrium (OR = 7.9; 95% CI, 1.6-40.1). In this group of women, genetic predisposition to cancer, as reflected in family history of breast cancer and personal history of an additional primary cancer, was strongly associated with overexpression of p53 in endometrial tumors. The results suggest that use of tamoxifen may be associated with an increase in tumors that overexpress p53, although the results could be due to chance.