Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) is linked to an inherited defect in the DNA mismatch repair system. DNA from HNPCC tumours shows microsatellite instability (MSI). It has been reported that HNPCC patients have a better prognosis than patients with sporadic colorectal cancer. We examined whether the presence of MSI in a series of unselected colorectal tumours carries prognostic information. In a series of 181 unselected colorectal tumours, 22 tumours (12%) showed MSI. Survival analysis at 5-10 years follow-up showed no statistically significant difference in prognosis between MSI-positive and -negative tumours. Our results suggest that the MSI phenotype as such is not an independent prognostic factor.