The presence of mutations in the p53 gene was examined in ovarian cancers by a polymerase chain reaction-single strand conformation polymorphism (PCR-SSCP) analysis. The primers were designed to amplify exons 5 through 9 that contain phylogenetically conserved domains of the p53 gene. Mutations were detected in 5 out of 10 cases, one of which contained a deletion in the second allele. A single base substitution was detected in 4 cases at codons 162, 175, 205 and 273 and a single base insertion in one case within codon 315. A high frequency of p53 mutations in ovarian cancers and lack of mutation in 6 benign ovarian tumors and 2 normal ovaries suggested that the mutation of the p53 gene was associated with the genesis and/or progression of ovarian cancer. In 1 of 7 endometrial cancers, two mutations at codons 239 and 254 were detected.