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Mutated p53 acts as a dominant oncogene and alterations in the p53 gene are described in a large number of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). It has been demonstrated that hepatitis C virus (HCV)-core protein regulates transcriptionally cellular genes, as well as cell growth and apoptosis. This study was undertaken to evaluate whether p53 may be expressed also in a precocious stage of HCV-related liver damage.We studied p53 expression by immunoluminometric assay on liver samples from 40 patients (M/F 18/ 22, median age 44 years, range 13–64 years) with biopsy-proven HCV-related chronic hepatitis. We considered the following factors: degree of liver damage, liver iron content and HCV-RNA titre. We also evaluated as possible co-factors alcohol and food intake in the last 3 years.p53 was over-expressed in seven of 40 (17.5%) patients. Liver histology documented the presence of unexpected cirrhosis in two patients among the p53 positive subjects. The p53 positive group had a daily ethanol intake significantly higher in respect to that of the p53 negative group (P < 0.05). Alimentary history documented that patients with a p53 over-expression had a lower intake of total calories, monounsaturated fatty acids, vitamin C and riboflavin.Data indicate that p53 over-expression can occur even in initial stages of HCV-related liver disease.