Reactive oxygen metabolites are implicated in the initiation and promotion of cancer. In addition, oxidant scavengers, such as manganese--(Mn-SOD) and copper/zinc--superoxide dismutase (Cu/Zn-SOD), are thought to contribute to colorectal cancer treatment response. In the present study, the prognostic significance of the Mn- and Cu/Zn-SOD antigen content of normal mucosa and carcinomas of 163 patients with colorectal cancer was evaluated in comparison with major clinicopathological parameters, with respect to the 5-year overall survival. The Mn-SOD content of carcinomas was found to be significantly higher than that of normal mucosa, whereas there was no difference in the Cu/Zn-SOD content between the normal mucosa and carcinomas. No association was demonstrable between the Mn-SOD and Cu/Zn-SOD content of the tissues and the assessed clinicopathological parameters (gender, age, localization, differentiation grade, diameter and Dukes' stage), with the exception of the Cu/Zn-SOD and the differentiation grade of the carcinomas. Univariate analysis showed that a high Mn-SOD content of carcinomas was associated with a poor 5-year overall survival of the patients with colorectal cancer. Multivariate analysis including all clinicopathological parameters revealed that this Mn-SOD parameter was prognostically independent. The Mn- and Cu/Zn-SOD content of normal mucosa and the Cu/Zn-SOD content of carcinomas were not associated with the overall survival of the patients. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that for patients with colorectal cancer the Mn-SOD content of colorectal carcinomas has a significant prognostic value that is independent from major clinicopathological parameters, including Dukes' stage.