Overexpression of p53 was studied immunohistochemically in colorectal tumors. We found p53-positive cells in 17 (58.6%) of 29 specimens of cancer in adenoma. Expression of p53 protein was detected in the nuclei of the tumor cells. We also found p53-positive cells in 7 (7.1%) of 99 specimens of adenoma. p53 immunoreactivity for severe dysplasia was higher than that for mild or moderate dysplasia. p53 expression in adenomas was restricted to a few glands, and the proliferating-cell nuclear antigen (PCNA)-positive rate for the p53-positive glands was significantly higher than that for p53-negative glands. The results suggested that the p53-positive glands might have high growth fractions, and that immunohistochemical detection of p53 expression in tubular adenomas might contribute to identifying the potential for malignant transformation.