Understanding the distribution of tumor-associated antigens on cancers and normal tissues is essential for selection of targets for cancer immunotherapy. Seven carbohydrate antigens, potential targets for immunotherapy, were studied using a panel of well-characterized MAbs by immunohistochemistry on cryostat-cut tissue sections of 13 types of cancers and 18 normal tissues. GD2 and GD3 were present on most cancers of neuroectodermal origin and GD2 was also present on B cell lymphomas. 9-O-acetyl-GD3 was detected only on melanoma while fucosyl GM1 was detected only on small cell lung cancers (SCLC). Surprisingly, GM2 was strongly expressed on all tested tumors, including cancers of neuroectodermal origin and cancers of epithelial origin. Polysialic acid was primarily expressed on SCLC and neuroblastomas. Globo H was present on most cancers of epithelial origin. These antigens were also identified in normal tissues. Fucosyl GM1 was not expressed significantly on any of the normal tissues analyzed. GD3, GD2, GM2 and polysialic acid were detected in normal brain to varying degrees. GM2 and Globo H were expressed on the luminal surface of epithelia of a variety of organs. The unexpected expression of GM2 on a broad range of cancers and normal epithelial tissues was confirmed by loss after methanol fixation and by immune thin layer chromatography. Int. J. Cancer 73:42–49, 1997. © 1997 Wiley-Liss, Inc.