Survivin is an inhibitor of apoptosis protein, which is overexpressed in many carcinomas, including lung carcinoma. The aim of this immunohistochemical study was to investigate the role of survivin in the early steps of lung carcinogenesis and non-small cell lung carcinomas (NSCLC), and its relationship with expression of p53 protein, a tumor suppressor gene involved in cell cycle control. In the normal bronchial epithelium, low-grade atypical adenomatous hyperplasia (AAH) and non-neoplastic lung parenchyma adjacent to tumor, survivin was found completely negative. Expression of survivin was detected in the areas of squamous metaplasia and dysplasia as well as high-grade AAH lesions adjacent to tumor. Survivin was expressed in 50 (64%) and p53 in 41 (53%) NSCLC. Survivin expression was significantly correlated with lymph node metastasis (p=0.02). There was no correlation between survivin and p53 expression. The patients with expression of survivin had significantly worse prognosis (Log-rank test, p=0.003). Multivariate Cox regression analysis showed TNM stage (p<0.001) and survivin expression (p=0.003) as independent prognostic indicators. In conclusion, survivin expression might be an early step in lung carcinogenesis. Survivin expression might also be used as a prognostic indicator predicting the worse outcome in NSCLC, and might be a novel target for the treatment of patients with preinvasive lesions of lung and NSCLC. © Springer-Verlag 2006.