We analysed p16 gene alteration and p16, cyclin-dependent kinase 4 (CDK4), CDK6, cyclin D1, cyclin D2, cyclin D3 and retinoblastoma protein (pRb) expression in ten normal endometriums (PE), 18 endometrial hyperplasias (EH) and 35 endometrial cancers (EC). Two of ten PE (20%), nine of 18 EH (50.0%) and 29 of 35 EC (82.9%) exhibited p16 nuclear staining. p16 expression was significantly higher in EC than EH (P = 0.0119). In the six p16 (-) EC, one was considered to have reduced gene dosage consistent with possible homozygous deletion of the CDKN2 gene and three had methylation in 5'CpG island in the promoter region of the p16 gene, whereas none showed such reduced gene dosage and four had methylation in the nine p16 (-) EH. Strong CDK4 staining was observed in 12 of 35 EC (34.3%) and one of 18 EH (5.6%). The strong expression of CDK4 was higher in EC than in EH (P = 0.0399). The expression of CDK4 was higher in EH than PE (P = 0.0054). The abnormalities of p16-cyclin D/CDK-pRb pathway were detected in 18 of 35 EC (51.4%). In conclusion, the expression of p16 and CDK4 may be an early event in the neoplastic transformation of endometrial cancer.