In previous studies of the expression of MUC1 (membrane-bound type mucin) and MUC2 (intestinal type secretory mucin) in pancreatic tumours, invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) usually showed MUC1+ and MUC2− expression, whereas intraductal papillary–mucinous tumour (IPMT) showed MUC1− and MUC2+ expression. Recently, however, many IPMTs have been collected, a considerable number of which have shown MUC1− and MUC2− expression. In the present study, the clinicopathological features were examined of 18 IPMTs with MUC2+ and 32 IPMTs with MUC2−, and their potential for malignancy was compared. Most of the IPMTs with MUC2+ were composed of dark columnar cells, whereas most of the IPMTs with MUC2− were composed of clear columnar cells. The incidence of carcinomatous change and invasive proliferation of the carcinoma in the MUC2+ tumours was significantly higher than in the MUC2− tumours. The clinical outcome for the patients with IPMT showing the MUC2+ pattern tended to be worse than for those with IPMT showing the MUC2− pattern, although the overall outcome for the two types of IPMT was significantly better than for those with IDC. Because of the differences in mucin expression pattern, morphological appearance and potential for malignancy between the two types of IPMT, we believe that they belong to different neoplastic lineages and that it may be reasonable to classify them as different entities, although the WHO classification contains a single clinicopathological entity of IPMT forming an adenoma–carcinoma sequence. In conclusion, our classification of IPMTs by MUC2 expression pattern may be of value in the better assessment of the biological behaviour of IPMTs and their potential for malignancy. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.