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DNA copy number changes were compared in 29 histologically benign follicular adenomas, of which five were atypical, and 13 follicular carcinomas of the thyroid by comparative genomic hybridization. DNA copy number changes were frequent in adenomas (14 out of 29, 48%). Most changes were gains, and they always involved a gain of the entire chromosome 7 (10 out of 29, 34%); other common gains involved chromosomes 5 (28%), 9 (10%), 12 (24%), 14 (21%), 17 (17%), 18 (14%) and X (17%). Losses were found only in four (14%) adenomas. Two of the five atypical adenomas had DNA copy number losses, and none had gains. Unlike adenomas, gains were rare and losses were frequent in carcinomas. A loss of chromosome 22 or 22q was particularly common in carcinomas (6 out of 13, 46%), whereas a loss of chromosome 22 was found in only two (7%) adenomas, one of which was atypical (P = 0.002). A loss of 1p was also frequent in carcinomas (31%), but gains of chromosomes 5, 7, 12, 14 or X that were common in adenomas were not found. Loss of chromosome 22 or 22q was present in six of the eight widely invasive follicular carcinomas, but in only one of the five minimally invasive carcinomas. We conclude that large DNA copy number changes are common in thyroid adenomas. These changes are strikingly different from those found in follicular carcinomas consisting of few losses and frequent gains, especially those of chromosome 7. A loss of chromosome 22 is common in widely invasive follicular carcinoma.