The morphologic distinction between various serrated polyps of the colorectum may be challenging. The distinction between sessile serrated adenoma (SSA) and traditional serrated adenoma (TSA) may be difficult using currently available criteria mostly based on cytologic characteristics. We have evaluated 66 serrated polyps including 29 SSA, 18 TSA, and 19 hyperplastic polyps for overall shape of the polyps, architectural features of individual crypts, the presence of eosinophilic cytoplasm, size and distribution of the proliferation and maturation zones, as well as Ki-67 and CK20 expression. The extent of the expression of CK20 and Ki-67 could not distinguish between the 3 types of serrated polyps, but the distribution of their expression was very helpful and differences were statistically significant. The distribution of Ki-67+ cells was the single most helpful distinguishing feature of the serrated polyp type (P<0.0001, chi test). Hyperplastic polyps had regular, symmetric, and increased Ki-67 expression. SSA had irregular, asymmetric, and highly variable expression of Ki-67. TSA had low Ki-67 expression, which was limited to "ectopic crypts" and admixed tubular adenomalike areas. In serrated polyps, ectopic crypt formation (ECF) defined by the presence of ectopic crypts with their bases not seated adjacent to the muscularis mucosae was nearly exclusive to TSA and was found in all cases, while the presence of cytologic atypia and eosinophilia of the cytoplasm were characteristic, but not limited to TSA. No evidence of ECF, but nevertheless abnormal distribution of proliferation zone was characteristic of SSA, whereas HP had neither. The presence of the ECF defines TSA in a more rigorous fashion than previous diagnostic criteria and also explains the biologic basis of exuberant protuberant growth associated with TSA and the lack of such growth in SSA. Recognition of this phenomenon may also help in exploring the genetic and molecular basis for differences between SSA and TSA, because these architectural abnormalities may well be a reflection of abnormalities in genetically programmed mucosal development.