The products of bcl-2 and p53 genes are involved in the regulation of apoptosis and proliferation and have been associated with prognosis in several malignancies, including colorectal adenocarcinoma. Although 2 European studies have reported a prognostic significance of Bcl-2 expression in colorectal adenocarcinomas, a study from the United States did not observe such an association. Therefore, we used immunohistochemistry to evaluate the prognostic significance of Bcl-2 expression, p53 nuclear accumulation and their concomitant expression in 134 US patients with colorectal adenocarcinoma. Antigen retrieval was required for adequate detection of Bcl- 2 expression. Fifty percent of the colorectal tumors were classified as expressing Bcl-2, and Bcl-2 expression was associated with longer patient survival. Antigen retrieval was not necessary for detecting nuclear accumulation of p53 by immunohistochemistry. Nuclear accumulation of p53 was detected in 44% of colorectal adenocarcinomas and was associated with decreased patient survival. Tumors that did not express detectable levels of Bcl-2 but exhibited nuclear accumulation of p53 were associated with the shortest patient survival (log rank, p = 0.001). Multivariate Cox regression analysis demonstrated that Bcl-2 expression (p = 0.018), p53 nuclear accumulation (p = 0.024) and regional lymph-node metastasis (p = 0.005) were independent prognostic factors. Although a trend toward an inverse correlation between Bcl-2 and p53 expression was observed, the prognostic value of Bcl-2 expression was independent of p53 status. Thus, assessment of both Bcl-2 and p53 status may be valuable in predicting the prognosis of patients with colorectal adenocarcinomas.