Background: In recent years, as a result of refinement in molecular biology techniques, significant progress has been made in the understanding of colorectal carcinogenesis. Particular attention has been drawn to identification of genetic mutation that may predispose to colorectal carcinoma (familial syndromes) and may affect tumor behavior and prognosis (sporadic cases). Conclusions: Our method of topographic genotyping of human colonie carcinomas has shown a correlation between K-ras-2 and p53 mutations and stage at diagnosis as well as long-term survival. Data from other investigators in this field confirm the importance of genetic analysis of human colorectal tumors. These findings are likely to impact management by allowing a more individualized therapeutic approach. Published by Lippincott-Raven Publishers © 1997 The Society of Surgical Oncology, Inc.