It is generally accepted that most colorectal carcinomas arise in pre-existing adenomas. Morphologically, colorectal adenomas can be divided into two groups, protruded type and flat type. The aim of this study was to clarify relevant alterations of gene expression associated with the early stage of colorectal carcinogenesis. Using cDNA array, we analysed the expression profiles of 550 cancer-related genes in 36 colorectal adenomas (18 flat-type and 18 protruded-type adenomas) and 14 early invasive carcinomas. Among the 550 genes, we chose 32 genes the average expression levels of which were at least three-fold up- or downregulated in tumour tissues compared with levels in matched normal tissues. A total of 13 and 19 genes were identified as up- and downregulated genes in tumour tissues, respectively. Among the upregulated genes, the average expression levels of E1AF, bone morphogenic protein (BMP)-4, insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-2, inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinase (TIMP)-1, Smad4, and nm23 in tumour tissues were over five times higher than those in matched normal tissues. Colorectal adenomas and early invasive carcinomas were divided into two major clusters by clustering analysis. Moreover, flat- and protruded-type adenomas were divided into two major clusters by clustering analysis. The expression profiles obtained by the cDNA array clearly indicate that colorectal adenomas and early invasive carcinomas have specific expression profiles. Likewise, the gene expression profiles of flat- and protruded-type adenomas are different. These results indicate that molecular classification of early colorectal tumours by a cDNA array is feasible.