T-cell infiltration into human cancer tissues can be a manifestation of host immune responses to cancer cells. The present study was undertaken to explore the clinicopathological significance of intraepithelial CD8(+) T cells using 371 consecutively sampled human colorectal carcinomas. By univariate analysis, we noted that the survival curves by intraepithelial CD8(+) T cells became separated only after 1 to 2 years postoperation. Multivariate analyses revealed that the beneficial effect of this factor becomes significant only after a longer (more than 2 year), but not after a shorter (less than 2 year) follow-up period. Furthermore, the number of intraepithelial CD8(+) T cells was significantly higher in patients alive for more than 5 years than in patients who either died of cancer after a curative operation or patients who underwent a noncurative operation. Patients' cancer-specific death long after a curative operation is thought to be caused by the growth of micrometastases in other organs or near the primary sites. The effects of intraepithelial CD8(+) T cells, therefore, may be mediated by suppression of micrometastasis, rather than suppression of growth in the primary tumour. In conclusion, our data support a hypothesis on the presence of systemic immunosurveillance against micrometastasis of cancer cells.