The inactivation of tumour suppressor genes by aberrant methylation of promoter regions has been described as a frequent event in neoplasia development, including lung cancer. The p16 gene is a tumour suppressor gene involved in the regulation of cell cycle progression that has been reported to be inactivated by promoter methylation in lung carcinomas at variable frequencies around the world in a smoking habit dependent manner. The purpose of this study was to investigate the methylation status of the promoter region of the p16 gene in 74 non-small cell lung carcinomas from Chile. The frequency of p16 gene inactivation by promoter methylation was determined as 79.7% (59/74). When we considered histological type, we observed that p16 promoter methylation was significantly higher in squamous cell carcinomas (30/33, 91%) compared with adenocarcinomas (21/30, 70%) (p=0.029). In addition, no association between p16 promoter methylation and gender, age or smoking habit was found (p=0.202, 0.202 and 0.147 respectively). Our results suggest that p16 promoter hypermethylation is a very frequent event in non-small cell lung carcinomas from Chile and could be smoking habit-independent.