Early detection of colon cancer can result in a high cure rate; therefore, an accurate screening method is imperative. Adoption of non-invasive testing designed to reduce anxiety over colorectal cancer screening and improve early detection is highly desirable. Therefore, we have developed a novel non-invasive methodology utilizing exfoliated colonocytes in order to quantify colonic messenger RNAs (mRNAs). Previously we have demonstrated in the rat that intact eukaryotic mRNA can be isolated due to the presence of exfoliated colonocytes in the faecal stream. To assess use of this methodology in humans, this pilot study evaluated exfoliated colonocyte mRNA expression of 11 putative biomarkers using real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) in seven normal subjects, four subjects with inflammation, and 10 tumour-bearing subjects presenting for colonoscopy. Expression of the biomarkers was evaluated following normalization to TATA box binding protein mRNA levels. Tumour-bearing subjects diagnosed with adenoma had elevated levels of cyclin Dl (p = 0.041). In addition, subjects displaying inflammation of the colon exhibited higher mRNA levels of cyclooxygenase-2 (p = 0.007). These data suggest that mRNA isolated from exfoliated colonocytes could be used to detect early stages of colon cancer, and possibly chronic inflammation. To broaden the utility of non-invasive marker analysis, additional studies are needed to generate a multi-target assay panel of diagnostic markers. This will allow for the development of robust classifiers that can determine critical gene sets for the diagnosis and prediction of colon cancer in animal models and humans.