The term biologic marker (biomarker) of colorectal cancer refers in this article to an early preclinical phenotypic characteristic that relates to the risk for developing this cancer. Putative biologic markers in the normal colorectal mucosa of patients at risk include abnormal cell proliferation as determined by kinetic studies, ornithine decarboxylase activity, and polyamine synthesis. Alterations of mucin synthesis have been studied using both histochemical stains and lectin-binding techniques. Blood group and related carbohydrate antigens also have been evaluated as potential biomarkers in the normal mucosa. Biopsy small (less than 5 mm) polyps encountered at endoscopy has become a standard practice. Although a small polyp found to be an adenoma has a low likelihood of harboring high-grade dysplasia or invasive carcinoma, it represents an indicator of risk for colorectal neoplasia. Hyperplastic polyps, however, even though they have certain epidemiologic associations with colorectal neoplasia, are controversial as putative biomarkers of clinical relevance. Current research supports a concept of a field defect of the colorectal mucosa at risk for neoplasia, which may be identified by phenotypic abnormalities of the normal mucosa and the development of small adenomas.