We have previously reported that mice with muscular dystrophy, including mdx mice, develop embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (eRMS) with a low incidence after 1 year of age and that almost all such tumours contain cancer-associated p53 mutations. To further demonstrate the relevance of p53 inactivation, we created p53-deficient mdx mice. Here we demonstrate that loss of one or both p53 (Trp53) alleles accelerates eRMS incidence in the mdx background, such that almost all Trp53−/− mdx animals develop eRMS by 5 months of age. To ascertain whether increased tumour incidence was due to the regenerative microenvironment found in dystrophic skeletal muscles, we induced muscle regeneration in Trp53+/+ and Trp53−/− animals using cardiotoxin (Ctx). Wild-type (Trp53+/+) animals treated with Ctx, either once every 7 days or once every 14 days from 1 month of age onwards, developed no eRMS; however, all similarly Ctx-treated Trp53−/− animals developed eRMS by 5 months of age at the site of injection. Most of these tumours displayed markers of human eRMS, including over-expression of Igf2 and phosphorylated Akt. These data demonstrate that the presence of a regenerative microenvironment in skeletal muscle, coupled with Trp53 deficiency, is sufficient to robustly induce eRMS in young mice. These studies further suggest that consideration should be given to the potential of the muscle microenvironment to support tumourigenesis in regenerative therapies for myopathies. Copyright © 2011 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.