Seventy-two cases of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) were examined from 2856 consecutive autopsy cases at the Japanese Red Cross Medical Center in Tokyo from 1973-1996. Primary lung cancer had arisen in 31 of 72 cases of IPF (43%), significantly higher than the incidence in cases without IPF (8.1%) and in the cases with non-IPF chronic lung diseases (11.9%). Hyperplastic epithelial foci in the honeycomb lesions of IPF cases were significantly more prominent in the lower than in the upper lobe, in cases with or without lung cancer, and they were more prominent in the lower lobe of IPF with than in those without cancer. The length of hyperplastic epithelial foci in the lower lobe of IPF cases was longer than that in interstitial pneumonia-associated with collagen vascular diseases. There was a higher PCNA labeling index of hyperplastic epithelial foci in IPF cases than in cases of interstitial pneumonia-associated with collagen vascular diseases. The PCNA labeling index was almost the same between smokers and nonsmokers with IPF. Overexpression of p53 was observed in hyperplastic epithelial foci in honeycomb lesion of IPF. DNA ploidy analysis of hyperplastic epithelial foci in the paraffin sections of 12 IPF cases revealed aneuploidy patterns in eight cases. These results strongly suggest that accelerated cell proliferation occurs in the honeycomb lesion of IPF, and that regenerative epithelia becomes susceptible to carcinogenic agents in addition to the smoking effect.