The association of p53 abnormalities with the prognosis of patients with non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) has been extensively investigated to date, however, this association is still controversial. Therefore, we investigated the prognostic significance of p53 mutations through exons 2 to 11 and p53 protein expression in 103 cases of stage I NSCLC. p53 mutations were detected in 49 of 103 (48%) tumors. Two separate mutations were detected in four tumors giving a total of 53 unique mutations in 49 tumors. Ten (19%) of mutations occurred outside exons 5-8. Positive immunohistochemical staining of p53 protein was detected in 41 of 103 (40%) tumors. The concordance rate between mutations and protein overexpression was only 69%. p53 mutations, but not expression, were significantly associated with a shortened survival of patients (P<0.001). Furthermore, we investigated the correlation between the types of p53 mutations and prognosis. p53 missense mutations rather than null mutations were associated with poor prognosis (P < 0.001 in missense mutations and P=0.243 in null mutations). These results indicated that p53 mutations, in particular missense mutations, rather than p53 expression could be a useful molecular marker for the prognosis of patients with surgically resected stage I NSCLC.