Vitamin E and vitamin C are involved in the defense of the body against free radical and reactive oxygen molecule induced damage. The best characterized biological damage caused by radicals is known as lipid peroxidation. Free radical formation is known to play a major role in the development of cancer. In this study, we measured plasma levels of thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) as a marker of lipid peroxidation, cholesterol, and vitamins E and C as antioxidants in male patients with colorectal tumors (n = 20, 54.5 +/- 8.3 years). The patients had significantly higher plasma TBARS levels than age-matched healthy subjects (p < 0.001). Plasma vitamin C levels were significantly lower in the patients compared to the healthy subjects (p < 0.001). On the other hand, plasma vitamin E levels in the patients were similar to those of healthy subjects. Plasma cholesterol levels were also found to be significantly elevated in patients with colorectal tumors (p < 0.00 1). Our results suggest that there is an imbalance between oxidant and antioxidant status in tumor genesis.