The concept that cells can become malignant upon the elimination of parts of chromosomes inhibiting cell division dates back to Boveri in 1914. Deletions occurring in tumor cells are therefore considered a first indication of possible locations of tumor suppressor gene. Approaches used to localize and identify the paradigm of tumor suppressors, RB1, have also been applied to localize tumor suppressor genes on 3p, the short arm of chromosome 3. This review discusses the methodological advantages and limitations of the various approaches. From a review of the literature on losses of 3p in different types of solid tumors it appears that some tumor types show involvement of the same region, while between others the regions involved clearly differ. Also discussed are results of functional assays of tumor suppression by transfer of part of chromosome 3 into tumor cell lines. The likelihood that a common region of deletions would contain a tumor suppressor is strongly enhanced by coincidence of that region with a chromosome fragment suppressing tumorigenicity upon introduction in tumor cells. Such a situation exists for a region in 3p21.3 as well as for one or more in 3p12-p14. The former region is considered the location of a lung cancer suppressor. The same gene or a different one in the same region may also play a role in the development of other cancers including renal cell cancer. In the latter cancer, there may be additional roles of the VHL region and/or a 3p12-p14 region. The breakpoint region of a t(3;8) originally found to be constitutively present in a family with hereditary renal cell cancer now seems to be excluded from such a role. Specific genes on 3p have been suggested to act as suppressor genes based on either their location in a common deletion region, a markedly reduced expression or presence of aberrant transcripts, their capacity to suppress tumorigenicity upon transfection in to tumor cells, the presumed function of the gene product, or a combination of several of these criteria. A number of genes are evaluated for their possible role as a tumor suppressor according to these criteria. General agreement on such a role seems to exist only for VHL. Though hMLH1 plays an obvious role in the development of specific mismatch repair-deficient cancers, it cannot revert the tumor phenotype and therefore cannot be considered a proper tumor suppressor. The involvement of VHL and MLH1 also in some specific hereditary cancers allowed to successfully apply linkage analysis for their localization. TGFBR2 might well have a tumor suppressor function. It does reduce tumorigenicity upon transfection. Other 3p genes coding for receptor proteins THRB and RARB, are unlikely candidates for tumor suppression. Present observations on a possible association of FHIT with tumor development leave a number of questions unanswered, so that provisionally it cannot be considered a tumor suppressor. Regions that have been identified as crucial in solid tumor development appear to be at the edge of synteny blocks that have been rearranged through the chromosome evolution which led to the formation of human chromosome 3. Although this may merely represent a chance occurrence, it might also reflect areas of genomic instability.