The glycosaminoglycans are implicated in many processes important in the growth and progression of malignant tumors. In the present study glycosaminoglycans were purified from healthy, macroscopically normal and cancerous specimens of different anatomic sites and different stages of cancer and analyzed by FACE after chondroitinases and sulfatases digestion. The cancerous samples contained increased levels of 6-sulfated unsaturated disaccharides compared to macroscopically normal and healthy samples, the increase being stage-related. The differences in sulfation were found to be related to the anatomic site and the stage of cancer. RT-PCR analysis of 4-sulfotransferase mRNA revealed its presence in decreasing amounts as the stage of the cancer increased. Furthermore, the percent content of hyaluronan disaccharides was elevated in macroscopically normal samples compared to the cancerous, and in addition, it was much more elevated than that of healthy samples. Haluronan levels increase with stage in cancerous tissues. Therefore, it could be concluded that the glycosaminoglycans in colorectal cancer are biosynthetically directed to contribute in different ways depending on the cancer stage and anatomical site.