Colorectal cancer (CRC) occurring in the proximal colon and among women may represent a distinct subtype of the disease. In the present study of 120 sporadic CRCs, we used methylation-specific PCR to test whether methylation of the CpG island in the 5' region of the p16INK4a tumor suppressor gene was associated with anatomical location, gender, or other clinicopathological characteristics. Overall, 18.3% of the tumors had detectable p16INK4a methylation. A marked preponderance of methylated tumors occurred within the proximal colon; cancers occurring proximal to the sigmoid colon were 13.1 times more likely to contain methylated p16INK4a compared with distal tumors. In addition, female patients were 8.8 times more likely than males to have methylation-positive cancers, and p16INK4a methylation was also associated with poorly differentiated tumors. The localization of tumors with p16INK4a methylation within the proximal colon and among female patients specifically adds to a growing database of molecular alterations that define important subtypes of sporadic CRC. The potentially reversible nature of CpG methylation may provide novel therapeutic opportunities for this increasing subtype of the disease, which, due to anatomical location, presents a great challenge for early detection.