The aim of the present study was to evaluate the clinicopathologic significance of p53 and p21 expression in lingual squamous cell carcinomas. Immunohistochemical staining was performed with p53 and p21 monoclonal antibodies on surgical specimens from 87 patients who underwent primary surgical treatment for lingual carcinoma between 1976 and 1996. We found positive expression of p53 in 45 (52%) of 87 cases and of p21 in 49 (56%) of 87 cases. There was no correlation of p53 and p21 expression with cancer stage, T stage, nodal metastasis, and tumor grade. Univariate analysis revealed that p21 expression, tumor stage, T stage, and nodal stage were significant prognostic factors for survival. However, only p21 expression and tumor stage were significant independent prognostic factors for survival in a multivariate Cox regression analysis. Overexpression of p21 but not p53 has prognostic value for survival in the surgical treatment of lingual carcinomas. The combination of stage with p21 expression is recommended for evaluation of prognosis and for management planning.