To clarify the significance of hMLH1 promoter hypermethylation in the development of medullary-type poorly differentiated colorectal adenocarcinoma, we studied the status of promoter methylation and hMLH1 expression in 23 medullary-type and 12 pleomorphic-type carcinomas, as well as the pathology and microsatellite status. In medullary-type carcinomas, the percentages of cases with promoter methylation (83%) and an absence of hMLH1 expression (91%) were significantly higher than in pleomorphic-type carcinomas (14 and 17%), respectively. The rate of microsatellite instability in the medullary type was significantly higher than that of the pleomorphic type (87 vs 40%, P<0.01). Compared with pleomorphic-type carcinomas, medullary-type carcinomas were significantly associated with hMLH1 promoter methylation, absent expression of hMLH1 protein, microsatellite instability, as well as a proximal location, a Crohn's-like lymphoid reaction, a low incidence of lymph node metastasis, and a favorable outcome. Medullary-type carcinomas accumulated with advancing age, especially in the female. These results indicated that hMLH1 hypermethylation, concurrent with a lack of its protein expression, may play an important role in the development of medullary-type poorly differentiated colorectal adenocarcinomas in the elderly.