Colorectal cancer remains a significant public health challenge, despite our increased understanding of the genetic mechanisms involved in the initiation and progression of this disorder. It has become clear that multiple mechanisms lead to the tumorigenic phenotype, with familial predisposition syndromes accounting for less than 15% of all colorectal cancers. A genome-wide scan for loss of heterozygosity (LOH) was carried out with 150 highly polymorphic markers in an effort to identify additional loci involved in colorectal tumorigenesis in DNA samples from 42 colorectal cancer patients. The results confirm earlier observations that tumor DNAs from patients with hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC) either maintain heterozygosity or exhibit altered or additional alleles. DNAs from patients with early onset colorectal carcinomas (diagnosed prior to age 50) revealed a higher overall degree of LOH than DNAs from patients with sporadic colorectal cancers diagnosed later in life (after age 50). While regions on 1p, 10q and 14q are suggestive, statistical analysis of LOH at these regions failed to reach significance. However, LOH at 9p did reveal a statistically significant increase in the early onset patient group, compared to the greater than age 50 group. LOH on 9p may involve inactivation of p16/CDKN2 through aberrant DNA methylation on the remaining chromosome, resulting in a situation analogous to a homozygous deletion of p16 and providing a selective growth advantage to these cells. This marker may prove to be a useful prognostic indicator for patient stratification in the design of therapy for early onset colorectal cancer patients.