An association between the Arg allele of the p21WAF1/CIP1 codon 31 polymorphism and lung cancer has been reported. However, the genotype distribution of the p21 codon 31 polymorphism, as well as the association of this polymorphism with lung cancer risk and prognosis, remain undefined in the Taiwanese population. Therefore, we investigated the genotype distribution of the p21 codon 31 polymorphism in 155 lung cancer patients and 189 non-cancer controls. The genotype frequencies in the Taiwanese non-cancer controls were 0.51 (Ser) and 0.49 (Arg). Chi2 analysis indicated significant differences in Taiwanese genotype distribution of p21 from those reported for Swedes (P=0.001), Caucasians (P=0.001), Indians (P=0.001), and African-Americans (P=0.001). However, our data did not demonstrate an association of the Arg allele of the p21 polymorphism with lung cancer risk in Taiwan. Lung cancer patients with Ser/Arg and Arg/Arg genotypes were at a nonsignificant 1.15-fold increased risk of lung cancer when compared to individuals with the Ser/Ser genotype (95%CI, 0.70-1.86). In addition, although p21 is a downstream target of p53, we found no significant correlation of the p21 polymorphism with the p53 polymorphism and p53 gene mutation in lung cancer patients. We further investigated the association of the p21 polymorphism with prognosis in 154 lung cancer patients. Patients with the Ser/Ser genotype tended to have a poorer prognosis than those with the Ser/Arg and Arg/Arg genotypes (P=0.097, by the log rank test). Our data suggest that the p21 codon 31 polymorphism may not play a significant role in cancer susceptibility and the prognosis of lung cancer patients in Taiwan.