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It has been suggested that N-nitroso compounds derived from meat may increase the risk of K-ras mutations in the human colon. We sought evidence of associations between red meat consumption, frequency and type of K-ras mutations in resected tumours, and the rate of crypt cell proliferation (CCP) in the normal mucosa of patients with left-sided colorectal carcinoma. Meat consumption was assessed by food frequency questionnaire, and CCP was determined in rectal biopsies obtained prior to surgery. K-ras mutations in the resected tumours were determined using a PCR-based oligonucleotide hybridization assay. Fifteen K-ras mutations were detected in tumours from 43 patients; 13/15 in codon 12, 3/15 in codon 13, and 1/15 in both codons 12 and 13. All mutations were G A or G T transitions. There was no statistically significant difference between intakes of red meat in patients with a K-ras mutation (92.4 ± 9.7 g/day) and those without (823 ± 7.7 g/day). Rectal CCP was significantly higher in patients than in healthy controls, but there was no correlation with meat consumption or K-ras mutation. These data do not support the hypothesis that meat consumption is a risk factor for acquisition of K-ras mutations during colorectal carcinogenesis.