Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer in the United Kingdom and other developed countries in the West. Although it is usually not familial, there is a rare dominantly inherited susceptibility to colon cancer, familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP; also often previously called familial polyposis coli). During adolescence affected individuals develop from a few hundred to over a thousand adenomatous polyps in their large bowel. These are sufficiently likely to give rise to adenocarcinomas to make prophylactic removal of the colon usual in diagnosed FAP individuals. Adenomas may occur elsewhere in the gastrointestinal tract and the condition is often associated with other extracolonic lesions, such as epidermoid cysts, jaw osteomata and fibrous desmoid tumours. Adenomata have been suggested to be precancerous states for most colorectal tumours. Knudson has suggested that the mutation for a dominantly inherited cancer susceptibility may be the first step in a recessive change in the tumour cells, and that the same gene may be involved in both familial and non-familial cases of a given tumour. Following up a case report of an interstitial deletion of chromosome 5 in a mentally retarded individual with multiple developmental abnormalities and FAP, we have now shown that the FAP gene is on chromosome 5, most probably near bands 5q21-q22.