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Epidemiologic studies indicate that the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which inhibit cyclooxygenase activity, reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. In addition, several studies demonstrate increased expression of cyclooxygenase-2 in human colorectal cancer tissues. However, the role of cyclooxygenase-2 expression in colorectal cancer has not yet been fully established. The aim of this study was to clarify the clinicopathologic significance of cyclooxygenase-2 expression in human colorectal cancer.A total of 232 surgically resected colorectal cancer specimens were analyzed immunohistochemically with the use of a murine anti-human cyclooxygenase-2 monoclonal antibody. Cyclooxygenase-2 expression was then compared with clinicopathologic background and survival outcome.Cyclooxygenase-2 was expressed in the cytoplasm of the cancer cells but not in normal epithelium. Cyclooxygenase-2 expression was noted in 71.6 percent (166/232) of the cancer patients and correlated significantly with histologic type (P= 0.033), depth of invasion (P= 0.016), pathologic stage (P= 0.020), and metachronous liver metastasis (P= 0.001). Multivariate analysis for factors associated with metachronous liver metastasis showed that cyclooxygenase-2 expression was one of the independent risk factors, second only to lymph node metastasis. Patients with cyclooxygenase-2 expression showed a significantly poorer outcome compared with those without cyclooxygenase-2 expression (P= 0.002).Cyclooxygenase-2 expression in the primary lesion may be a useful marker for evaluating prognosis and liver metastasis in patients with colorectal cancer.