Tobacco smoke contains many carcinogens and has been linked with the development of lung cancer. We sequenced the conserved regions of the p53 tumour suppressor gene in lung cancers from 17 non-smokers from Hiroshima, Japan; 9 were atomic-bomb survivors. The mutations were predominantly transitions (all G:C to A:T); there were no G:C to T:A transversions. By contrast, lung cancers from 77 Japanese smokers have a predominance of G:C to T:A transversions in which the guanine residues occur on the non-transcribed DNA strand. These findings further implicate tobacco smoke carcinogens in the molecular pathogenesis of lung cancer.