Mutation of the APC gene may be a common denominator of all human colon cancer--polypoid and non-polypoid familial cancer as well as sporadic occurrences. Fearon and Vogelstein (1990) have described a series of molecular changes during the progression of human colon cancer, beginning with mutations in APC. Min is a strain of the laboratory mouse carrying a nonsense mutation in Apc, the mouse homologue of APC. The Min strain has been used to test the effect of germline alterations in certain genes identified in the progression pathway of Fearon and Vogelstein. A deficiency in DNA cytosine methylase leads to a reduction in the tumour multiplicity of Min mice contrary to the a priori expectation based on the global hypomethylation of the DNA of early colonic neoplasms. Alterations in Kras had no perceptible effect on the tumour multiplicity of Min mice but may not have been successfully directed to the proliferative cell population. Constitutional mutation of p53 did not influence the multiplicity or histopathology of early Min induced intestinal tumours. The cause and effect analysis of the genetics of colon cancer is clearly in an early phase. An unlinked genetic factor interacting with Min in controlling intestinal tumour multiplicity is Mom1. A central goal for the near future is to identify the Mom1 gene product and to identify other loci that can interact with the Min mutation and affect tumour multiplicity or progression. Mouse chimaeras will permit an analysis of the clonality and cell autonomy of Min induced neoplasms and also of the action of Mom1. The results of these analyses will inform investigators as to what modes of prevention and therapy might be designed for particular tumour types. The Min strain thereby presents an opportunity to discover protective factors against human colon cancer.