Aggressive fibromatosis (also called desmoid tumor) occurs as a sporadic lesion or as part of Familial Adenomatous Polyposis, which is caused by germ line mutations in the Adenomatous polyposis Coli (APC) gene. APC is involved in the regulation of the cellular level of beta-catenin, which is a mediator in Wnt signaling. Mutational analysis of the beta-catenin and APC genes was performed in 42 sporadic aggressive fibromatoses. Nine tumors had mutations in APC, and 22 had a point mutation in beta-catenin at either codon 45 or codon 41 (producing a stabilized beta-catenin protein product). Immunohistochemistry showed an elevated beta-catenin protein level in all tumors, regardless of mutational status. Beta-catenin localized to the nucleus, and was not tyrosine phosphorylated in the six tumors in which this was tested. The demonstration of mutations in two mediators in the Wnt-APC-beta-catenin pathway implicates beta-catenin stabilization as the key factor in the pathogenesis of aggressive fibromatosis. This is the first demonstration of somatic beta-catenin mutations in a locally invasive, but non metastatic lesion composed of spindle cells, illustrating the importance of beta-catenin stabilization in a variety of cell types and neoplastic processes. Moreover, this tumor has one of the highest reported frequencies of beta-catenin mutations of any tumor type.