People in developed nations such as the United States and Canada have an increased risk of colon cancer. Fecal mutagens have been detected in the feces of individuals at high risk for colon cancer. We describe a rapid, sensitive, reliable, reproducible high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) method for detecting fecapentaenes, the most active and chief mutagen found in human stool. We found fecapentaene in all the stool samples of adults on typical high-fat, low-fiber Western diets. These fecapentaene concentrations remained largely constant when subjects consumed constant diets. Fecapentaene concentrations were reduced for total-parenteral-nutrition (TPN) patients with severe intestinal malabsorption. This finding with TPN patients may reflect changes in important variables of gut microflora in fecapentaene production. Studies with newborns and children showed that fecapentaenes appeared very early in life but are not present in stool at birth.