Nucleolar organizer regions (NORs) were investigated in lung carcinomas by silver staining. This method was applied to 111 lung carcinoma specimens, including 40 with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), 42 with adenocarcinoma (ADENO), 8 with adenosquamous carcinoma (ADESQ), 8 with small cell carcinoma (SMCC), 6 with large cell carcinoma (LGCC), and 7 with typical carcinoid tumors (CAOID). The mean AgNOR counts of ADENO, SCC, ADESQ, SMCC, and LGCC were significantly higher than those of the normal bronchial surface and those of the glandular or alveolar epithelium. The mean AgNOR count of CAOID was significantly higher than those of the normal glandular and alveolar epithelium but not that of the surface epithelium. The mean AgNOR count of SCC was significantly higher than that of bronchial squamous metaplasia, and the count of SMCC was significantly higher than that of CAOID. Within the same cancer category, the mean number of AgNORs increased in parallel with the histological tumor grades. These results indicate that the AgNOR method is useful for differentiating lung carcinoma from its normal counterparts and for evaluating histological tumor grades in the same lineage of lung carcinoma.