The study's objective was to examine whether there is evidence that colonoscopic polypectomy reduces the incidence of colorectal cancer. The records of all patients who underwent colonoscopic polypectomy by a single surgeon between 1974 and 1991 were reviewed. Patients with colorectal cancer diagnosed at the initial colonoscopy, with a history of colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease or familial adenomatous polyposis or with only hyperplastic polyps were excluded. There were 1008 remaining patients, of whom 645 have attended at least one follow-up colonoscopic examination, and these 645 patients from the basis of the study, because the incidence of cancer is known exactly in this group. The mean period of follow up was 4.4 years and the mean number of follow-up colonoscopic examinations was 2.2. There was a total of 2847 person-years of colonoscopic follow up. The expected incidence of cancer, age and sex adjusted, is calculated using Australian epidemiological figures. The observed incidence of cancer was 3 cases (all asymptomatic) per 2847 person-years, which is indistinguishable from the general population's risk of 3.75 cases per 2847 person-years. Analysis of previous publications suggests that patients with adenomas are at an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer of about 2.5 times the general population's risk. If correct, then the observed incidence of 3 cases per 2847 person-years is less than the expected incidence of 9.4 cases per 2847 person-years. This analysis suggests colonoscopic polypectomy does reduce the incidence of colorectal cancer.