Dietary fat, arachidonic acid metabolism and lipid peroxidation have all been implicated in colorectal carcinogenesis. Fatty acids, prostaglandins (PGE2, PGF2 alpha) and malondialdehyde (MDA), the stable end-product of lipid peroxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), were studied in paired tumour and normal mucosa of 20 patients with colorectal cancer. Levels of arachidonic acid and total PUFAs were increased in the phospholipid fraction of tumours (P < 0.05). Levels of PGE2 and MDA were also higher in tumours (P < 0.001) and there was a significant correlation between MDA and PGE2 concentrations (rs = 0.69, P < 0.01). In contrast to previously reported in vitro studies, this work suggests that lipid peroxidation may be enhanced in human colorectal tumours. As PGE2 and MDA have been shown to be involved in carcinogenesis, these may be considered potential therapeutic targets for preventing or treating colorectal carcinoma.