A 42 year old man without familial adenomatous polyposis had recurrent desmoid tumours in the left subclavicular site. Histological examination showed a typical desmoid tumour. Molecular analysis was performed in genomic DNA from this tumour, using polymerase chain reaction-single strand conformation polymorphism (PCR-SSCP) and direct sequencing methods. No mutation could be detected in the entire coding sequence of the APC gene, nor in H-ras, K-ras, N-ras, or p53 genes. On seeking a mutation of the beta catenin gene (CTNNB1), an activating mutation from ACC (Thr) to GCC (Ala) at codon 41 was found. Immunohistochemical staining showed that accumulated beta catenin protein was predominantly localised in the nuclei of desmoid cells. This is the first example of a sporadic desmoid tumour in which a mutation of the beta catenin gene was revealed.