To evaluate the significance of micrometastases in relation to survival rate, specimens from 48 colorectal carcinoma patients were analysed after fat clearance. The number and size of the lymph nodes harbouring metastases and the significance of micrometastases for patients' survival were assessed. We found that although the majority of metastatic lymph nodes (71.8%) were 5 mm or less in diameter, their size had no effect on survival. Immunohistochemical staining of lymph nodes revealed that 15 of 25 patients with Dukes' stage B diagnosed by routine staining had micrometastases, 86% of these lymph nodes being less than 5 mm in diameter. The survival rate of this subgroup was found to be considerably poorer than that of Dukes' stage B patients with no micrometastases. None of the three patients with Dukes' stage A carcinoma had micrometastases. Since most of the metastases and micrometastases occur in lymph nodes of 5 mm and less and can be easily missed by routine examination, we suggest that fat clearance and routine immunohistochemical analysis of Dukes' stage B improve the prediction of outcome of colorectal cancer patients.