The frequency of oesophageal adenocarcinoma is increasing in Western countries for unknown reasons, and correlates with a corresponding increase in the pre-malignant condition, Barrett's Oesophagus, which raises the risk of adenocarcinoma by some 40- to 125-fold. We have examined how disease progression correlates with changes in expression of the p14ARF (ARF) tumour suppressor, a key regulator of the p53 tumour suppressor pathway that is silenced in some 30% of cancers overall, but for which a role in oesophageal cancer is unclear. We have used quantitative PCR, RT-PCR, methylation-specific PCR and chromatin-immunoprecipitation to examine the regulation and function of ARF in oesophageal adenocarcinoma tissue specimens and cell lines. We find highly significant reductions (P< 0.001) in ARF expression during disease progression from normal oesophageal epithelium to Barrett's Oesophagus to adenocarcinoma, with 57/76 (75%) adenocarcinomas displaying undetectable levels of ARF expression. Retention of ARF expression in adenocarcinoma is a highly significant indicator of increased survival (P< 0.001) and outperforms all clinical variables in a multivariate model. CpG methylation as well as histone H3 methylation of lysines 9 and 27 contribute independently to ARF gene silencing in adenocarcinoma cell lines and can be reversed by 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine. The results suggest that silencing of ARF is involved in the pathogenesis of oesophageal adenocarcinoma and show that either DNA or histone methylation can provide the primary mechanism for ARF gene silencing. Silencing of ARF could provide a useful marker for increased risk of progression and poor prognosis.