This study was undertaken to analyze genetic alterations in 108 sporadic serous ovarian neoplasms to elucidate ovarian serous carcinogenesis. Our results demonstrate that K-ras mutations occur in approximately 50% of serous borderline tumors (SBTs), non-invasive micropapillary serous carcinomas (MPSCs), and invasive micropapillary serous carcinomas, which represent a morphological continuum of tumor progression. Moreover, progressive increase in the degree of allelic imbalance of chromosomes 1p, 5q, 8p, 18q, 22q, and Xp was observed comparing serous borderline tumors to noninvasive and invasive micropapillary serous carcinomas. In contrast, high-grade (conventional serous carcinoma) tumors contained wild-type K-ras in all 23 cases studied and a high frequency of allelic imbalance even in small (early) primary tumors similar to that found in advanced stage tumors. Based on these findings, we propose a dualistic model for ovarian serous carcinogenesis. One pathway involves a stepwise progression from SBT to noninvasive and then invasive MPSC. The other pathway is characterized by rapid progression from the ovarian surface epithelium or inclusion cysts to a conventional (high-grade) serous carcinoma.