Detection of molecular features such as K-ras mutations has been used to evaluate potential tumour markers in a wide variety of clinical samples. Here we have applied a recently developed highly sensitive method for detection of K-ras codon 12 mutations to colorectal and pancreatic cancer diagnosis. We analysed 67 faecal samples from patients undergoing diagnostic colonoscopy under suspicion of colorectal cancer. PCR products were obtained in 62 of 67 (93%) faecal samples. Mutations were detected in exfoliated cells in 6 of 22 (27%) of the adenomas and in 6 of 11 (55%) of adenocarcinomas. No false positives were observed. Agreement between faecal samples and corresponding tissues was 100% for adenocarcinomas and 65% for adenomas. Mutations were also analysed in 61 pancreatic fine-needle aspirates. Mutations were detected in 36 of 45 (80%) of the pancreatic aspirates diagnosed as pancreatic cancer without false positives. Our findings suggest that, when colorectal cancer is suspected, detection of K-ras codon 12 mutations in faecal samples using this new method is specific for colorectal tumours. Additionally, this technique is a good alternative for evaluation of pancreatic masses. Int. J. Cancer 85:73–77, 2000. © 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.