We examined polymorphisms in exons 3 and 4 of microsomal epoxide hydrolase in 101 patients with colon cancer and compared the results with 203 control samples. The frequency of the exon 3 T to C mutation was higher in cancer patients than in controls (odds ratio 3.8; 95% confidence intervals 1.8-8.0). This sequence alteration changes tyrosine residue 113 to histidine and is associated with lower enzyme activity when expressed in vitro. This suggests that putative slow epoxide hydrolase activity may be a risk factor for colon cancer. This appears to be true for both right- and left-sided tumours, but was more apparent for tumours arising distally (odds ratio 4.1; 95% confidence limits 1.9-9.2). By contrast, there was no difference in prevalence of exon 4 A to G transition mutation in cancer vs controls. This mutation changes histidine residue 139 to arginine and produces increased enzyme activity. There was no association between epoxide hydrolase genotype and abnormalities of p53 or Ki-Ras.