Previous research demonstrated a relationship between transfusions of whole blood, or large numbers of red cell concentrates, and later recurrence of cancers of the colon, rectum, cervix, and prostate. It is possible that the transfusion of whole blood may represent a surrogate marker for advanced or more aggressive clinical disease. The relationship of clinical or histologic tumor stage, blood transfusion status, and disease outcome was studied in detail. Patients receiving no transfusions or small numbers of red cells (le;3 units) had uniformly better recurrence and survival experiences than patients receiving similar amounts of blood that included at least 1 unit of whole blood, regardless of the patient's clinical or histologic tumor stage. In multivariate analyses, stage was an independent predictor of outcome, and transfusion status was not a surrogate marker for stage. The effects on recurrence of stage and transfusion appear to be cumulative. These results are consistent with but do not prove the hypothesis that the transfusion of large amounts of stored plasma and cellular debris impairs the host defenses against cancer, regardless of the underlying biologic and clinical aggressiveness of the cancer.