Simian virus (SV) 40 is a deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) virus that induces mesotheliomas, ependymomas, bone tumors, and lymphomas in hamsters. In recent years SV40 sequences have been detected in approximately 60% of mesotheliomas and ependymomas, in 33% of bone tumors and sarcomas, and in 13% of lymphomas. Because the amount of human specimens available for molecular studies is usually minimal, the method most commonly used to demonstrate SV40 in human specimens is the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). PCR is a highly sensitive and useful technique. In the PCR reaction, different sets of primers are used for targeting different regions of DNA. The regions of the SV40 genome targeted by PCR include the large T-antigen, the small t-antigen, the origin of replication, and viral protein-1 capsid protein. The use of these different sets of primers to test human tumor specimens for SV40 produce a different percentage of positive results. This is because these experiments revealed that some primers are more specific than others which may also detect sequences belonging to other DNA papovaviruses. Therefore, the combined use of different sets of primers is recommended when it is important to distinguish SV40 from other related papovaviruses such as BK and JC, which can also be occasionally present in human cells. Furthermore, these experiments demonstrated that polymerase chain reaction analyses for simian virus 40 can be performed better and easier when using deoxyribonucleic acid extracted from fresh and/or frozen tissue. Deoxyribonucleic acid from paraffin embedded specimens should not be used routinely for simian virus 40 testing because of the high risk of obtaining false negative results. However, these paraffin derived deoxyribonucleic acids can be used reliably in molecular laboratories specialized in these type of analyses. This paper describes the methods that we have developed to test simian virus 40 in human specimens.