The tumour suppressor gene p53 has been found to be mutated or inactivated at high frequency in several common human tumours. We have examined a series of exocrine pancreatic carcinomas for over-expression of mutant forms of p53 by immunohistochemistry with a panel of specific antibodies. We found immunodetectable p53 in 13 of 22 (60%) frozen pancreatic cancers and seven of 13 pancreatic cell lines. One of the antibodies, CM1, recognises p53 in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded archival material and using this reagent we found immunodetectable p53 in 28 of 124 (23%) pancreatic cancers. We have successfully demonstrated the presence of point mutations by direct sequencing of genomic DNA extracted from archival tissue showing CM1 immunoreactivity. We conclude that p53 activation is an important event in human pancreatic tumorigenesis and that the CM1 antibody can detect a proportion of cases of overexpression of mutant p53 in archival pathological material.