A mononucleotide repeat (D310) in mitochondrial DNA has been recently identified as a mutational hot spot in primary tumors. We analyzed 56 tumors for insertion/deletion mutations in the D310 repeat. A total of 13 mutations were detected. The highest frequency of mutations was found for cervical cancer, followed by bladder tumors, breast cancer and endometrial neoplasia. No alterations were observed in four patients suspected of malignancy but without evidence of malignant tumor. We detected identical changes in four of four urine sediments from patients with bladder cancer and in three of three fine needle aspirates of patients with breast cancer. Our results indicate that D310 abnormalities are detectable in cytology specimens from patients with cancer and support the notion that D310 analysis may represent a new molecular tool for cancer detection.