Paraffin sections from 190 epithelial ovarian tumours, including 159 malignant and 31 benign epithelial tumours, were analysed immunohistochemically for expression of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 2 (CDKN2A) gene product p16INK4A (p16). Most benign tumours showed no p16 expression in the tumour cells, whereas only 11% of malignant cancers were p16 negative. A high proportion of p16-positive tumour cells was associated with advanced stage and grade, and with poor prognosis in cancer patients. For FIGO stage I tumours, a high proportion of p16-positive tumour cells was associated with poorer survival, suggesting that accumulation of p16 is an early event of ovarian tumorigenesis. In contrast to tumour cells, high expression of p16 in the surrounding stromal cells was not associated with the stage and grade, but was associated with longer survival. When all parameters were combined in a multivariate analysis, high p16 expression in stromal cells was not an independent predictor for survival, indicating that low p16 expression in stromal cells is associated with other markers of tumour progression. High expression of p16 in the stromal cells of tumours from long-term survivors suggests that tumour growth is limited to some extent by factors associated with p16 expression in the matrix.