The National Polyp Study (NPS) is a multicenter prospective randomized trial designed to evaluate follow-up surveillance strategies in patients who have undergone polypectomy for the control of large bowel cancer. The study design was developed by a joint research committee from American Gastroenterological Association, the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, and the American College of Gastroenterology. Subjects who met the eligibility criteria were randomized into two different treatment arms. Eligibility criteria included: removal of one or more adenomas; complete colonoscopy; no prior polypectomy, inflammatory bowel disease, or familial polyposis; and no history of colon cancer. The treatment arms consisted of a frequent follow-up (1 and 3 years after initial polypectomy) and a less frequent follow-up (3 years). Follow-up examinations included fecal occult blood tests, air-contrast barium enema, and colonoscopy. The latter was done on 9112 referred patients at the seven participating centers from November 1980 until February 1990 who had no history of polypectomy, colon cancer, familial polyposis, or inflammatory bowel disease. Of these patients, 4763 (52.3%) had no polyps; 549 (6.0%) had an invasive cancer; 776 (8.5%) had nonadenomatous polyps; 208 (2.3%) had incomplete examinations; 184 (2.0%) had other findings; and 2632 (28.9%) had one or more adenomas, of which 1418 (53.9%) were randomized to one of the two treatment arms. This article reports the background, rationale, objectives, methods, and organization of this study and includes patient characteristics on initial presentation. Future data provided by the NPS may help in the development of recommendations for surveillance guidelines for such patients. This study also provides a framework to address questions regarding the natural history of adenomas and their relationship with colorectal cancer.