The quantity of beta-carotene (BC) accumulated in colonic polyps and colonic cancerous tissue in humans in situ was determined relative to the quantity accumulated in normal colon and rectal tissue. Serum concentration of BC, retinol, and alpha-tocopherol and tissue BC concentration were determined by high-performance liquid chromatography in samples obtained before and after oral supplementation with BC (30 mg/day). The serum BC and retinol concentrations significantly increased in response to supplementation in control, polyp, and cancer patients, but there was no change in serum alpha-tocopherol concentration. The BC concentration in tissue (colon, rectum, and tumor) of cancer patients was significantly less than that in tissue samples from control and polyp patients. Relative to baseline values, BC accumulated to a significant extent in tissues from all patients, including polyp and tumor tissue, during supplementation. The results indicate that BC does accumulate in colonic neoplastic tissue in humans and may potentially be utilized to augment cytotoxicity of chemotherapeutics or to prevent malignant transformation of cells.