The RAS gene family includes three functional genes, H-RAS, K-RAS, and N-RAS, which have been most widely studied in human tumors. Point mutations most commonly occurring at codons 12, 13, or 61 of these genes allow the RAS protooncogene to be converted to a RAS oncogene. A variety of human tumors have been studied for RAS mutations to date, however, conflicting data has been reported regarding prostate cancer. Cell line studies and two American studies of clinical material have found a low incidence of RAS mutation in prostate cancer. The few mutations found were predominantly in the H-RAS gene. Conversely, a recent study of Japanese occult autopsy specimens found an approximate 25% incidence of K-RAS mutations. In this current study, DNA was extracted from 24 archival paraffin-embedded, formalin-fixed radical prostatectomy specimens. Twenty-one of the 24 cases had pathologic stage C disease, and paraffin blocks were selected having the most concentrated area of neoplasm. Twelve, seven, and five cases demonstrated moderate, well and poorly differentiated histologic grade respectively. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to amplify the K-RAS, N-RAS, and H-RAS 12, 13, 61 codons of these specimens and mutations were detected with mutation-specific oligonucleotide probe hybridization of southern and slot blots. No definite point mutations were detected. PCR's and hybridizations were performed three separate times by three investigators to confirm these results. PCR-generated mutation-specific positive controls and known negative controls were used and found to be important to interpret oligonucleotide hybridization assays. RAS gene mutations appear to be infrequent in clinical prostate carcinomas in American males.