Screening colonoscopy was performed on 119 asymptomatic elderly men with no other risk factors for colonic neoplasms. Ninety adenomas were detected in 49 (41%) subjects. Mean adenoma size was 6.5 mm, with 83 (92%) less than or equal to 10 mm. Forty-nine (54%) adenomas were located proximal to the splenic flexure, and 17 (19%) were classified as tubulovillous or villous. Moderate- to high-grade dysplasia was found in 29 (32%) adenomas and was associated with larger size (p less than 0.0001) and villous architecture (p = 0.0038). Two subjects harbored adenomas with invasive cancer. Seventy-one hyperplastic polyps were found in 40 (34%) subjects. The mean size of hyperplastic polyps was 3.4 mm, and 64 (90%) were located in the left colon. We conclude that, in this population, adenomas are common lesions that are frequently small. However, substantial proportions of these adenomas may be at risk for malignant degeneration due to the presence of villous architecture and higher grades of dysplasia. Because adenomas and hyperplastic polyps are endoscopically indistinguishable, all polyps found at endoscopy should be removed or ablated.