Gastric adenomas are unusual neoplasms that can constitute one of the direct precursors to gastric adenocarcinoma. Most gastric adenomas are comprised of polypoid projections of dysplastic epithelium with at least focal intestinal-type differentiation (containing goblet cells and/or Paneth cells), whereas adenomas comprised entirely of dysplastic foveolar-type epithelium are rare. It has been shown that nearly all intestinal-type adenomas arise in association with background intestinal metaplasia and gastric atrophy, approximately 40% harbor high-grade dysplasia, and nearly one fourth progress to adenocarcinoma. In contrast, foveolar-type adenomas tend to occur in otherwise normal, nonatrophic gastric mucosa and rarely harbor high-grade dysplasia or carcinoma. Potential differences in the genetic alterations between intestinal-type and foveolar-type gastric adenomas have not been systematically studied. We investigated 11 intestinal-type and 7 foveolar-type gastric adenomas (all from patients without familial adenomatous polyposis) for alterations in APC (using 5q allelic loss assays and direct DNA sequencing of the mutation cluster region), beta-catenin (using direct DNA sequencing of the phosphorylation region in exon 3), K-ras (using direct DNA sequencing of codons 12 and 13), and microsatellite instability (MSI; using fluorescent-based PCR amplification of a standard panel of 5 microsatellite markers). Overall, 10 of 11 (91%) intestinal-type adenomas harbored at least one detectable genetic alteration, whereas only 3 of 7 (43%) of foveolar-type adenomas did (P =.047). However, no statistically significant differences in any particular genetic alteration were found. Among intestinal-type adenomas, APC alterations were present in seven (64%), high-level MSI in three (27%), and K-ras mutations in two (18%). Among foveolar-type adenomas, APC alterations were present in three (43%) and a K-ras mutation in one of six amplifiable polyps (17%). Neither APC nor MSI correlated with the size of the adenoma, but K-ras mutations were found only in lesions of > or = 1 cm. beta-catenin mutations were not present in any gastric adenoma, irrespective of the presence or absence of APC alterations. These results suggest that the types and frequencies of genetic alterations occurring in gastric and colorectal adenomas are similar. Although intestinal-type and foveolar-type gastric adenomas display divergent biologic behavior, the specific genetic events accounting for these differences in morphology and biologic behavior are unclear.