Recently, we have characterized the Ras association domain family 1A gene (RASSF1A) at the segment 3p21.3, which is frequently lost in variety of human cancers and epigenetically inactivated in many types of primary tumors, such as lung, breast, kidney, prostate and thyroid carcinomas. Here, we investigated the methylation status of the RASSF1A CpG island promoter in the pathogenesis of pancreatic cancer. RASSF1A hypermethylation was detected in 29 out of 45 (64%) primary adenocarcinomas, in 10 out of 12 (83%) endocrine tumors and in eight out of 18 (44%) pancreatitis samples. In seven out of eight pancreas cancer cell lines, RASSF1A was silenced and was retranscribed after treatment with 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine. Additionally, we analysed the aberrant methylation frequency of cell cycle inhibitor p16(INK4a) and K-ras gene mutations in the pancreatic samples. p16 inactivation was detected in 43% of adenocarcinomas, in 17% of neuroendocrine tumors, in 18% of pancreatitis and in 63% of pancreas cancer cell lines. K-ras mutations were detected in 16 out of 45 (36%) primary adenocarcinomas. Pancreatic adenocarcinomas with K-ras mutation have significantly less RASSF1A methylation and vice versa (P=0.001, chi(2) test). In conclusion, our data indicate that inactivation of the RASSF1A gene is a frequent event in pancreatic cancer and suggest an inverse correlation between RASSF1A silencing and K-ras activation.