We report the results of a 10-year, time-trend, case-control study in which serum cholesterol level was determined at several points in time preceding the diagnosis of colon cancer in a population of individuals who sought general checkups at an ambulatory care screening facility. Each of the 69 patients with colon cancer (32 men and 37 women) was matched with a control patient who was randomly selected. At the time of diagnosis, the patients with colon cancer had significantly lower serum cholesterol values than control patients (5.56 ± 0.31 mmol/L [SEM] vs 6.47 ±0.34 mmol/L). This difference did not vary with sex or Dukes’ stage of the cancer. The percent of matched pairs in which the cancer patient had a lower serum cholesterol level increased from 42% at 10 years prior to cancer diagnosis to 77% at diagnosis. The ratio of serum cholesterol at each period to the level at time of diagnosis demonstrated an average decline of 13% during the 10 years prior to diagnosis for case patients vs an average rise of 2% in the same period for control patients. We conclude that individuals in whom colorectal cancer develops share the same level of serum cholesterol as the general population initially, but during the 10 years preceding the cancer demonstrate a decline in serum cholesterol level that is opposite to the rising level seen with age in the general population. © 1990, American Medical Association. All rights reserved.