Previously a low frequency of p53 mutations was detected in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) using molecular techniques to screen for mutations, yet immunohistochemical staining revealed a high frequency of p53 aberrant proteins. These findings might be attributed to the occurrence of p53 mutations outside the common hot spots and/or the inactivation of the protein through interactions with cellular or viral proteins. Using a previously established simple and sensitive p53 yeast functional assay, we blindly screened 25 nasopharyngeal biopsies for p53 mutations from exons 4 to 11. p53 was mutated in 27.3% of NPC specimens and in 0% of the nasopharyngeal biopsies from patients with non-malignant diseases. Two p53 mutations were detected in exon 7 and two were detected in exon 8. Interestingly, the exon 8 mutations observed in NPC lie in codons which appear to be hot spots for mutations in other head and neck cancers.