To set the basis for a precise assessment of new therapeutic approaches, the prognosis of patients with colorectal cancer should be evaluated with the highest precision. The recent discovery, in tumor cells, of somatically acquired genetic alterations believed to be instrumental in tumor behavior may provide new independent prognostic factors. In the present study, the usual prognostic factors and a set of genetic alterations, i.e., Ki-ras mutations, DNA content, and allelic losses on chromosome 17p, 18q, 5q, and 1p, were investigated in 109 colorectal carcinomas. Univariate analysis for correlation with 5-year survival showed the following significant associations: histological staging (P less than 0.00001), preoperative serum carcinoembryonic antigen concentration (P less than 0.002), DNA content (P less than 0.009), and allelic loss on the short arm of chromosome 17 (P less than 0.002) and 1 (P less than 0.03). In multivariate analysis, only histological staging and allelic loss on the short arm of chromosome 17 were found to be independently associated with shorter survival (P less than 0.0001 and P less than 0.004, respectively). Loss of 17p alleles in colorectal carcinoma thus appears to be a marker of tumor aggressiveness. Its monitoring may lead to an improved classification of patients when adjuvant chemotherapy is considered.