We performed a comparative genomic hybridization study on 25 samples of adenocarcinoma and 19 samples of squamous cell carcinoma of the lung to detect recurrent changes in the genetic material. DNA copy number changes were found in 16 squamous cell carcinoma samples and 17 adenocarcinoma samples. The most common changes were gains of DNA sequences in 3q (43%), 1q (34%), 8q (32%), 5p, (30%), 7p (25%), and 12p (25%). Of the squamous cell carcinoma samples with DNA copy number changes, 94% (15/16) had a gain in 3q (minimal common region of overlap q24-qter), whereas only 24% (4/17) of the adenocarcinoma samples with DNA copy number changes showed a gain in 3q (q22-qter) (P < 0.001). Six high-level amplifications in 3q (q26.2-q26.3) were detected in the squamous cell carcinoma samples but none were observed in the adenocarcinoma samples. Our results suggest that amplification of genes in 3q may be important in the tumorigenesis of squamous cell carcinoma but not necessarily of adenocarcinoma.