The expression of CD44v6 is well known as a useful marker of tumor progression and prognosis in colorectal cancer. In this study, we evaluated the serum levels of soluble CD44 splice variants containing exon v6 (sCD44v6) and examined the histological expression of CD44v6 in patients with colorectal cancer. Serum samples were obtained from 44 primary colorectal cancer patients before surgery. We used enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay to determine the serum levels of sCD44v6. The expression of CD44v6 was examined by immunohistochemical staining of the primary tumors obtained from the same patients. Both the serum concentration of sCD44v6 and the expression of CD44v6 were significantly associated with lymph node metastasis (p < 0.05). Furthermore, the serum level of sCD44v6 was higher in those patients with CD44v6-positive tumor tissues (154.4 +/- 34.8 ng/ml) than in those with CD44v6-negative ones (130.7 +/- 32.3 ng/ml; p < 0.05). The 5-year survival rate was significantly lower in patients with high serum levels of sCD44v6 (52.4%) than in those with low levels of sCD44v6 (78.0%; p < 0.05), and it was also significantly lower in patients with CD44v6-positive cancer (42.1%) than in those with CD44v6-negative cancer (84%; p < 0. 01). We concluded that preoperative elevation in the serum levels of sCD44v6 might be a prognostic indicator for patients with colorectal cancer.