A comprehensive mutation detection assay is described for the entire coding region and all splice site junctions of TP53. The assay is based on denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis, which follows either multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) applied to DNA extracted from fresh or frozen tissue samples or nested PCR applied to DNA extracted from paraffin-embedded tissue samples. In both instances, the analysis can be performed under a single set of conditions. When testing the assay on DNA from cultured lung cancer cell lines and from paraffin-embedded Dukes C colorectal carcinomas, significant TP53 mutations were observed at high frequencies in 15 of 16 lung cancer cell lines (94%) and in 21 of 30 paraffin-embedded tissue samples of Dukes C colorectal carcinomas (70%). A substantial proportion of these significant mutations occurred outside the evolutionary conserved region of TP53 in 4 of 16 lung cancer cell lines (25%) and in 11 of 30 paraffin-embedded colorectal carcinomas (37%). This underscores the importance of a comprehensive TP53 mutation analysis in those instances that TP53 mutation is taken into account for diagnostic and prognostic purposes.