Bronchial and bronchioloalveolar carcinogenesis is a multicentric and multistep process, leading to a sequential accumulation of molecular and genetic abnormalities, mainly due to exposure to tobacco carcinogens. Concomitantly, a series of morphological alterations of normal bronchial or bronchioloalveolar epithelium occur, resulting in preneoplastic and then neoplastic lesions. The three pulmonary preneoplastic changes recognized to date in the lung include bronchial squamous dysplasia and in situ carcinoma, preceding invasive squamous cell carcinoma and basaloid carcinoma, atypical adenomatous hyperplasia, a preneoplastic condition of bronchioloalveolar carcinoma, and diffuse idiopathic pulmonary neuroendocrine cell hyperplasia, a proposed precursor for carcinoid tumours. Although the gradual accumulation of molecular alterations has been widely investigated in bronchial carcinogenesis, with the aim of determining new biomarkers for early lung cancer detection in high-risk patients and targeted chemoprevention, lung adenocarcinoma pathogenesis has been only recently highlighted, with the recent discovery of epidermal growth factor receptor mutation pathway in non-smokers. This review focuses on the current status of molecular pathology in lung cancer and pulmonary preneoplastic conditions.