Mutations of the p53 tumor suppressor gene are frequent in lung cancers. It is suggested that p53 mutations are associated with smoking-induced lung carcinogenesis. We examined p53 mutations in 53 lung cancers by analyzing reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction-single strand conformation polymorphism (RT-PCR-SSCP) to ascertain the association between p53 mutations and smoking. Twenty-five (47%) of 53 lung cancers carried p53 mutations. A discriminant analysis showed that the Brinkman index (0.156) and gender (0.140) significantly influenced p53 mutations. Furthermore, there was a dose-response relationship between the quantity of cigarettes consumed and the frequency of p53 mutations in lung cancer patients (P < 0.001). In patients with adenocarcinoma, the frequency of p53 mutations correlated with the amount of the tobacco smoked (P < 0.05). We suggest that the p53 gene is a target of particular carcinogen in tobacco smoke.