Inactivation of the p53 gene has been found to be associated with the pathogenesis of several neoplasias. Three biallelic polymorphisms in the p53 gene have been linked to predisposition to the development of various malignancies. These include a 16-bp duplication in intron 3 and BstU I and Msp I restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs) in exon 4 and intron 6, respectively. The prevalence of these polymorphisms was studied in breast cancer patients and nine major ethnic groups of Pakistan. Differences in allele frequencies for all three polymorphisms were observed among the various ethnic groups and breast cancer patients. The absence of the 16-bp duplication was common among the northern ethnic groups, being highest in the Hazara (0.90). The Msp I A1 allele frequency in the southern Makrani population was significantly higher in comparison with the other ethnic groups. In the cancer patients, the absence of the 16-bp duplication in combination with the BstU I Pro and absence of Msp I restriction site were the most frequent. In these patients, ten substitution mutations were found in the p53 gene, seven of which have been reported previously for breast cancer. The remaining three mutations have been found in other malignancies, but not in carcinoma of the breast.