The current model for colorectal tumorigenesis defines four specific mutations (activation of a ras proto-oncogene and inactivation of the APC, p53 and DCC tumor-suppressor genes) that accumulate in a colonic epithelial cell as it progresses towards a carcinoma. However, further mutations must be needed for progression to malignancy because advanced adenomas have been observed with all four of these mutations. Loss of heterozygosity (LOH) for 11 loci spanning the distal portion of the long arm of chromosome 14 was studied in 89 sporadic colorectal adenocarcinomas and 25 adenomas. The overall rate of LOH in carcinomas was 53% (46/86 informative carcinomas). The smallest region of overlap (SRO) of deletions includes the markers D14S19 to D14S20. No LOH was seen in the 18 informative adenomas examined. There was a significant trend towards higher levels of LOH within the SRO in advanced Dukes' stages (P = 0.016). Since frequent loss of heterozygosity in a specific region of a chromosome may reflect the inactivation of a tumor-suppressor gene located there, these data suggest that a gene involved in the progression of colonic neoplasia may reside on the distal portion of the long arm of chromosome 14, and that its inactivation may be a critical event in this process.