The skin affords an excellent model of human carcinogenesis because a variety of lesions from benign tumours to invasive malignancy, with or without metastatic potential, are commonly found, and are accessible to biopsy. To date, few genetic alterations have been observed in skin neoplasia. In this study we have used a recently developed monoclonal antibody (DO7) to examine p53 protein expression in a wide variety of benign and malignant skin lesions. Benign skin lesions were negative, but a significant number of malignant epithelial lesions showed detectable p53; 56% of squamous carcinomas and 42% of basal cell carcinomas were positive. A smaller proportion of dysplastic epithelial lesions were positive (27%), and only 3.6% of malignant melanomas were positive. Thus, although detectable p53 protein is a common occurrence in malignant epithelial lesions, it does not correlate with the malignant phenotype or with metastatic potential. The finding of a lower proportion of positivity in dysplastic lesions, and absence of staining in benign tumours, suggests that p53 mutation may be involved in the progression towards invasive malignancy in human squamous skin lesions.