Intraductal papillary mucinous tumours (IPMTs) of the pancreas are rare neoplasms characterized by a prominent intraductal component, and by malignant potential. Little data exists concerning numerical chromosome aberrations in IPMTs. The biological significance of mucinous epithelial changes (mucinous hyperplasia) in small branching ducts adjacent to IPMTs also remains unclear. From a series of 12 IPMTs, we investigated by interphase cytogenetics 22 foci with mucinous hyperplasia, 27 foci with borderline lesions, and 11 samples with either intraductal (CIS) or invasive carcinoma. Chromosome 6 loss was detected in areas with mucinous hyperplasia (36.3%), borderline lesions (96.3%), and CIS/invasive carcinoma (100%). Similar losses, indicating clonal progression, were found for chromosome 17 (18.2%, 81.5%, and 100%), and for chromosome 18 (0%, 18.5%, and 100%). Quantitative analysis showed a significant intraductal expansion of cell clones harbouring these numerical aberrations within the spectrum of IPMTs. Mucinous epithelial changes in 11 resection samples with chronic pancreatitis showed monosomy 6 (36%) and monosomy 17 (27%). Conversely, areas with low-grade pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN-1), obtained from eight surgical specimens with ductal adenocarcinoma, showed monosomies for chromosome 6, 17, and 18 (100%, 87%, and 50%, respectively). We conclude that monosomies, as defined by FISH analysis, are frequent in both IPMTs and mucinous hyperplasia of pancreatic ducts adjacent to IPMTs. Monosomy 6 may represent an early event in the stepwise accumulation of genomic mutations necessary for the neoplastic transformation of pancreatic duct epithelia, whereas loss of chromosome 18 may be implicated in the progression of borderline to malignant IPMT. The detection of complex chromosomal aberrations in mucinous epithelial changes, and the quantitative expansion of monosomic cell clones in pancreatic ducts, provide evidence for a continuum between hyperplastic and dysplastic epithelial changes. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.