Colonoscopic screening for neoplasia was performed in a regional group of ulcerative colitis patients with a disease duration of greater than or equal to 15 years. A total of 121 patients, aged less than 80 years, were invited to participate, of whom 100 (83%) accepted colonoscopy, including biopsies in 15 standard locations of the entire colon, plus additional biopsies from all visible lesions. Unequivocal dysplasia was found in one patient with extensive colitis and a disease duration of 31 years. A polyp with highly differentiated adenocarcinoma was found in the sigmoid colon of a patient with intermittent rectum involvement, 37 years after the ulcerative colitis diagnosis had been made. Biopsy specimens from the remaining 98 patients showed no signs of dysplasia or cancer. Thus the frequency of pre-malignant or malignant changes is very low compared with the results of similar studies, and the rationale for general colonoscopic surveillance programmes for such patients is open to question.