In a prospective randomised study, 597 patients subjected to curative surgery for colorectal cancer were allocated to either a group with frequent follow-up or a control group with follow-up every 5 years. The pattern of recurrence is reviewed. An equal number of recurrences was detected in the two groups, but the recurrence was diagnosed 9 months earlier in patients followed frequently, and the diagnostic characteristics of various tests dependent upon how often they were used. It is unlikely that frequent follow-up after curative surgery for colorectal cancer has a large positive influence upon survival, but a small benefit from an intensive follow-up program cannot be ruled out. The present results indicate that clinical examination, digital rectal examination, proctoscopy, colonoscopy and chest x-ray should be included in such a programme, whereas others (blood haemoglobin, faecal occult blood test, double contrast braium enema, serum alanine aminotransferase, and serum bilirubin) should be avoided, having a low sensitivity for detecting recurrent colorectal cancer.