Current interest in the MUC1/EMA mucin relates to its role in malignancy, and its potential as a therapeutic target. MUC1/EMA expression has been observed in the majority of epithelioid mesotheliomas. However, little is known of the characteristics of MUC1/EMA in mesothelioma. Herein, we studied the cell surface and soluble expression of the MUC1/EMA glycoprotein, and determined the mRNA and genomic expression profiles in mesothelioma. We found that the anti-MUC1 antibody, E29, was the most diagnostically useful of seven antibody clones examined with a sensitivity of 84% (16 out of 19 cases) and no false positive results. MUC1 mRNA expression was significantly higher in mesothelioma samples than in benign mesothelial cells. No amplification of the MUC1 gene was observed by FISH. Seven of 9 mesothelioma samples expressed MUC1-secreted mRNA isoform in addition to the archetypal MUC1/transmembrane form. CA15.3 (soluble MUC1) levels were significantly higher in the serum of mesothelioma patients than in healthy controls but were not significantly different to levels in patients with benign asbestos-related disease. CA15-3 in effusions could differentiate malignant from benign effusions but were not specific for mesothelioma. Thus, as in other cancers, alterations in MUC1 biology occur in mesothelioma and these results suggest that specific MUC1 characteristics may be useful for mesothelioma diagnosis and should also be investigated as a potential therapeutic target.