Immunohistochemical study may be used for detecting micrometastases by their expression of tumor-associated antigens. In 48 specimens of colorectal cancer from 47 patients, 49 of 249 lymph nodes (median, five per patient; range, 2-11) examined by light microscopic study contained tumor deposits. Sections of all lymph nodes were also examined by immunohistochemical study for carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and epithelial membrane antigen (EMA) expression using the indirect immunoperoxidase staining method. All 49 lymph node metastases (100%) from 20 patients stained positively for CEA and 45 (92%) expressed EMA. Of the 200 lymph nodes without metastases on light microscopic examination, anti-CEA revealed a single micrometastasis in a patient staged as Dukes' B. No additional metastases were detected with anti-EMA. In this series of patients immunohistochemical study has, therefore, influenced the histologic staging in only one patient (2%) and thus does not offer a significant benefit over conventional histologic staging.