Age-related methylation may have the potential to behave as a mutator process. To clarify the physiological consequence of age-related methylation of tumor suppressor and tumor-related genes, we studied promoter methylation status in non-neoplastic cells of various organs obtained at autopsy by methylation-specific PCR. Promoter methylation status of APC, DAP-kinase, E-cadherin, GSTP1, hMLH1, p16, RASSF1A and RUNX3 genes, which are frequently silenced in certain human malignancies, was studied in non-neoplastic cells of the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, liver, pancreas, kidney and lung obtained from 38 Japanese autopsies. The tumor suppressor and tumor-related genes, except APC and RASSF1A, were generally unmethylated in samples obtained from people who were less than 32 years old (n=11). Methylated promoters were present at variable frequencies in a tissue-specific manner in samples obtained from people who were greater than 42 years old (n=27), although GSTP1 and hMLH1 methylation was absent or infrequent and lacked tissue specificity. In the majority of organs, the incidence of age-related methylation paralleled the reported methylation incidence in malignant counterparts. Thus, age-related methylation of a different set of genes is thought to constitute a field defect in different organs.