Many studies have investigated the association between alterations in the p53 gene and clinical outcome of breast cancer, and most investigators have reported poorer overall and disease-free survival (as indicated by a relative hazard (RH) greater than one) in breast cancer cases with somatic mutations in p53. However, different studies have produced widely differing RH estimates, ranging from no risk (RH = 1) to a relative hazard of 23, and not all of these results have been statistically significant. We have therefore reviewed all the published studies that have investigated the association between somatic mutations in the p53 gene and breast cancer prognosis and used standard techniques of meta-analysis to combine the results of these studies to produce a more precise estimate of the prognostic significance of p53 mutations. Eleven studies investigated overall survival in a total of 2319 unselected cases. The RH estimates from these ranged from 1 to 23.4 with a combined RH estimate of 2.0 (confidence interval 1.7-2.5). Three studies investigated the role of p53 in node-negative patients and in these, the combined estimate of RH was 1.7 (1.2-2.3). For three studies of node-positive breast cancer the combined risk estimate was 2.6 (1.7-3.9). The inclusion of p53 mutation screening in large breast cancer clinical trials seems warranted in the light of these results. Analysis of large numbers of cases matched for stage and therapy will allow definitive clarification of the value of p53 mutational status in prognostication, and possibly choice of therapy.