Clinical and pathological features were evaluated to predict tumor microsatellite instability (MSI) and germline mutations in MLH1 and MSH2 DNA mismatch repair genes in two patient groups with sporadic colorectal cancer (CRC): 38 young patients (age </=45 years) and 31 old patients (age >/=60 years). Nine (25.7%) young patients out of 35 and five (16%) old patients out of 31 exhibited MSI in their cancers. MSI+ cancers were related to proximal cancer and mucinous carcinoma independently of the age at cancer onset. Three (7.9%) out of 38 young patients had mutations in MLH1 and MSH2 genes that led to truncated protein products; they were all at age <35 years and showed MSI in their tumors, with mucinous histotype in two cases. In conclusion, histopathological and clinical features of CRC allow identification of cancers showing DNA microsatellite instability. MSI in CRC at very early onset (age <35 years) appears useful to predict germline MMR gene defects.