Mediastinal teratomas are enigmatic; those in children and women are almost invariably benign but in men they may be benign or malignant. There are few data on the chromosome 12p status of mediastinal germ cell tumors (GCT), whereas increased 12p copy number is virtually uniform in malignant testicular GCTs. We therefore studied chromosome 12p copy number in 34 diverse mediastinal GCTs and correlated the results with morphology and follow-up to gain insight into possible pathogenesis. Four prepubertal (below 12 y) children (3 females and 1 male), 7 postpubertal females (14 to 52 y) and 6 postpubertal males (12 to 40 y old) had pure, previously untreated teratomas; 15 were mature and 2 had low-grade immaturity. All lacked 12p copy number increase and cytologic atypia, and most (14/17) showed organoid morphology. On follow-up of 16, 1 died of postoperative complications and the remaining 15 were disease free (1 to 119 mo, mean: 39 mo). Eight postpubertal males (19 to 44 y old) had pure teratomas in postchemotherapy resections; 5/8 showed 12p copy number increase. All 8 had distinct cytologic atypia, with organoid morphology in 3. On follow-up, 6 were disease free after surgical resection (1.5 to 94 mo, mean 38 mo); 1 died of disease at 14.5 months, and 1 was alive with metastases at 176 months. Two postpubertal patients, 1 male (29 y) and 1 female (31 y), had teratoma with secondary somatic-type malignancies, with positive 12p copy number increase in the former but not the latter. The man’s tumor occurred after chemotherapy and was a nonorganoid teratoma with primitive neuroectodermal tumor and malignant glioma; the woman’s was a previously untreated organoid teratoma with an undifferentiated carcinoma component. The man died of disease (16 mo) and the woman was alive with metastases (27 mo). Seven patients had resections for mixed GCTs (4) or pure nonteratomatous tumors, all after chemotherapy; 5/7 had positive 12p copy number increase. The teratoma component of the 2 cases having one showed distinct cytologic atypia and lacked organoid morphology. On follow-up, 1 died of disease (5 mo), 2 were alive with disease (1, 1.5 mo), 3 were disease free (1 to 43 mo; mean: 18 mo), and 1 was alive with unknown status (31 mo). Our results support that mediastinal teratomas likely develop from 2 separate pathways. Those in children, women and some men arise as pure neoplasms from a nontransformed precursor cell and, therefore, lack 12p copy number increase, show no cytologic atypia, often have organoid morphology and are benign. Common 12p copy number increase, uniform atypia, infrequent organoid structures and malignant behavior support that pure teratomas after chemotherapy in postpubertal males derive from a malignantly transformed precursor cell. Interestingly, we identified organoid pancreatic differentiation only in the benign group and neuroglia more commonly in the malignant teratomas.