p53 gene mutations in early and advanced colorectal cancer were detected by PCR-SSCP analysis. Early colorectal cancer was classified into de novo cancer and polyp-forming cancer, respectively, according to morphology and presence of adenomatous components. A total of 94 paraffin-embedded tissue specimens from patients with colorectal cancer were analysed. p53 gene mutations were detected in 40.0% (12/30) of de novo cancer, 36.7% (11/30) of polyp-forming cancer, and 44% (15/34) of advanced cancer. p53 mutations were detected at a high frequency in both types of early colorectal cancer as well as in advanced cancer. No correlations were found between p53 mutations and clinicopathological data. Our data suggest that the p53 gene mutations occurred in the early colorectal cancer stage of carcinogenesis regardless of the pathway.