Insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) is postulated to be a mediator of growth suppression signals. Here, we examined the methylation status of IGFBP-3 to correlate to clinicopathological factors in human cancers. The methylation status of IGFBP-3 was determined by bisulfite DNA sequencing and was correlated with expression semi-quantified by real-time RT-PCR to develop a methylation-specific PCR (MSP) assay for IGFBP-3. Using the MSP assay, we examined the methylation status of IGFBP-3 in gastric cancer (GC), colorectal cancer (CRC), breast cancer (BC) and malignant mesothelioma (MM). IGFBP-3 methylation was detected in 6 of 13 (46%) and 16 of 24 (67%) GC cell lines and tumors, respectively; 4 of 8 (50%) and 15 of 26 (58%) CRC cell lines and tumors, respectively; 3 of 11 (27%) and 7 of 39 (18%) BC cell lines and tumors, respectively and 1 of 5 (20%) and 18 of 56 (32%) MM cell lines and tumors, respectively. Interestingly, the methylation status of MM specimens from Japanese patients (75%, 12 out of 16 patients) was significantly higher than those from the USA (15%, 6 out of 40 patients) (p < 0.0001), suggesting the presence of ethnic differences in the IGFBP-3 methylation status. We also found that IGFBP-3 methylation was preferentially present in GCs arising in the lower-third of the stomach (p = 0.079). In summary, our results showed that IGFBP-3 methylation played an important role in the silencing of its expression, suggesting that IGFBP-3 may act as a tumor suppressor gene in several human cancers examined.