The prognostic significance of nuclear and cytoplasmic p53 protein, detected immunocytochemically using CM1 and PAb 1801 antibodies, was evaluated in right-sided and left-sided colorectal adenocarcinomas from 293 patients. CM1 nuclear and cytoplasmic p53 accumulation occurred in 38 and 25% of cases, respectively. PAb 1801 nuclear staining occurred in 18%, with no cytoplasmic staining. CM1 expression either in the nucleus or in the cytoplasm was positively related to PAb 1801 expression (P < 0.001 and P = 0.009, respectively). The incidence of CM1 nuclear and cytoplasmic expression was more frequent in right-sided tumours (P = 0.023 and P = 0.034, respectively), while PAb 1801 nuclear staining was more common in left-sided tumours (P = 0.011). In survival analyses, CM1 nuclear overexpression in the right-sided tumours (P = 0.016) and CM1 cytoplasmic overexpression in left-sided tumours (P = 0.04) were prognostic indicators, independent of Dukes' stage, DNA ploidy, PAb 1801 expression and each other. Further analysis showed that the prognostic value of CM1 nuclear expression was greater in right-sided tumours than in left-sided tumours (P = 0.018). The nuclear and cytoplasmic p53 protein detected with CM1 and PAb 1801 may play different roles in tumour progression and provide prognostic indicators for right- and left-sided colorectal tumours.