In previous investigations p53 polymorphisms and haplotypes have been found to be associated with different types of cancer. In this paper the codon 31 polymorphism of the p53-inducible protein p21 was studied in 144 Swedish lung cancer patients and two different control groups: 95 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and 761 healthy controls. An increased frequency of the p21 codon 31 A1 (arg) allele was found in lung cancer patients, especially in comparison with COPD patients (p = 0.004). There was a significantly increased frequency among lung cancer patients of individuals carrying the arg allele both in comparison with COPD controls (OR = 5.2, 95% CI 1.5-18.1) and healthy controls (OR = 1.7, 95% CI = 1.0-2.9). The results of this and previous studies indicate that allelic variants of both p53 and its effector protein p21 may have an influence on lung cancer.