The aim of the present study was to investigate the expression of p53 in sinonasal papillomas, carcinomas ex papillomas and normal nasal mucosa. Furthermore, we wanted to study the expression of p53 in relation to the presence of human papilloma virus (HPV). Immunohistochemical staining was performed on 37 formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded biopsies comprising seven biopsies from normal nasal mucosa, 13 papillomas of an exophytic growth pattern, 12 papillomas of an endophytic growth pattern and five carcinomas. The level of p53 overexpression was defined as more than 5% positive nuclei. The normal nasal mucosa showed no positive nuclei. The papillomas of both exophytic and endophytic growth patterns showed scattered positive nuclei, but in all cases this was less than 5%. p53 was overexpressed in three out of five carcinomas. In conclusion, we found an overexpression of p53 in carcinomas occurring in sinonasal papillomas but not in the benign tumours of the sinonasal mucosa. Thus, this report supports the concept that p53 may have a role in the carcinogenic process in head and neck tumours.