It is generally accepted that most colorectal cancers arise from adenomatous polyps and most coronary heart disease is caused by severe atherosclerosis. In order to compare the frequency of these disease precursors in men of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii, the degree of atherosclerosis of the aorta and coronary arteries was estimated by the panel method in 288 male autopsy subjects. The extent of atherosclerosis was then compared in men who did or did not have adenomatous polyps as determined at autopsy. The degree of atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries and aorta was positively and significantly related not only to the presence of adenomatous polyps, but to their size, multiplicity, and degree of atypia as well. This study suggests that shared environmental events could account for the development of severe atherosclerosis and adenomatous polyps. At the same time, it has been observed that hawaii Japanese men experience colon and rectal cancer rates higher than those of US Whites, but their coronary heart disease (CHD) rates are intermediate between the low rates of Japan and the high rates of the US white population. These differences in disease trends and differences in the serum cholesterol and fat intake of Hawaii Japanese men with CHD and colon cancer have suggested that men with these diseases represent different subsets of the westernized Japanese population. If CHD and colon cancer occur in different subsets of this population, they must stem from the accumulation of other risk factors superimposed upon the initiators of their precursor lesions.