Serum levels of interleukin-1 (IL-1 beta), interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin-8 (IL-8), tumor necrosis factor (TNF-alpha), and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) were measured preoperatively in 24 patients with colorectal cancer. IL-1 beta was not elevated, IL-6 and IL-8 were markedly elevated, and GM-CSF was slightly elevated. TNF-alpha was not detected in most patients. Serum IL-6 levels correlated closely with serum IL-8 levels and with serum carbohydrate antigen (CA) 19-9 levels. Serum IL-6 levels were significantly higher in patients whose tumors exceeding 5.0 cm in diameter or spreading circumferentially. Serum IL-8 levels showed significant differences according to histological type, being lower in well differentiated adenocarcinoma compared to other types. Serum levels of IL-6 and IL-8 were significantly higher in patients with liver metastasis than in those without liver metastasis and serum levels of both these cytokines were also significantly higher in patients with lung metastasis than in those without lung metastasis. These results suggest that IL-6 and IL-8 may play an important role in the hematogenous metastasis of colorectal cancer.