BACKGROUND: Formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissues are routinely used for detecting mutational biomarkers in patients with cancer. A previous intractable challenge with FFPE DNA in genetic testing has been the high number of artifactual single-nucleotide changes (SNCs), particularly for the detection of low-level mutations. Pretreatment of FFPE DNA with uracil-DNA glycosylase (UDG) can markedly reduce these C:G>T:A SNCs with a small panel of amplicons. This procedure has implications for massively parallel sequencing approaches to mutation detection from DNA. We investigated whether sequence artifacts were problematic in amplicon-based massively parallel sequencing and what effect UDG pretreatment had on reducing these artifacts. METHODS: We amplified selected amplicons from lung cancer FFPE DNAs using the TruSeq Cancer Panel. SNCs occurring at a frequency <10% were considered most likely to represent sequence artifacts and were enumerated for both UDG-treated and -untreated DNAs. RESULTS: Massively parallel sequencing of FFPE DNA samples showed multiple SNCs, predominantly C:G>T:A changes, with a significant proportion occurring above the background sequencing error (defined as 1%). UDG pretreatment markedly reduced C:G>T:A SNCs without affecting the detection of true somatic mutations. However, C:G>T:A changes within CpG dinucleotides were often resistant to the UDG treatment as a consequence of 5-methyl cytosine being deaminated to thymine rather than uracil. CONCLUSIONS: UDG pretreatment greatly facilitates the accurate discrimination of mutations in FFPE samples by use of amplicon-based approaches. This is particularly important when working with samples with low tumor purity or for the assessment of mutational heterogeneity in tumors.