p53 is a tumor suppressor gene that is mutated in diverse tumor types. Here we report the frequencies of common polymorphic variants at codon 72 of the p53 gene in germline DNA of lung cancer cases and controls as determined by a polymerase chain reaction strategy. The observed allelic distribution was found to be significantly different between African-Americans and Caucasians in this U.S. population. The frequency of polymorphic variants was similar in lung cancer cases and controls after adjustment for race. However, among lung cancer patients the proline variant at codon 72 was in excess in adenocarcinoma patients by comparison with other histologies.