Non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) prognosis is strictly related to well-established clinicopathological parameters which have unfortunately become insufficient in the prognostic evaluation of this type of cancer. As p53 and bcl-2 gene deregulations are frequently involved in several types of epithelial malignancies, we investigated the Bcl-2 and p53 protein expression in 91 and 101 cases of NSCLC respectively. The expression was then compared with established indicators of prognosis and biological behaviour of the tumours. No relationship was observed between Bcl-2 and either clinicopathological or biological parameters such as histology, grading, tumour status, nodal metastasis and proliferative activity evaluated by scoring proliferating cell nuclear antigen expression and Ki-67 immunoreactivity. However, the mean Bcl-2 expression was significantly lower in patients who developed metastasis during follow-up or died of metastatic disease (P = 0.006 and P = 0.01 respectively). Moreover, survival probability was higher in patients who expressed the Bcl-2 protein (P = 0.0002). In contrast with this, p53 protein accumulation was observed in tumours with metastatic nodal involvement (P = 0.02) or in patients who developed metastasis during follow-up (P = 0.01), although no correlation was found between p53 expression and overall survival. An inverse relationship was also found between Bcl-2 and the anti-oncogene protein product p53 (P = 0.01). Thus, a high proportion of NSCLCs express p53 and Bcl-2 proteins and their expression may have prognostic importance.