Abstract Sequential changes in proliferative parameters in proximal and distal colonic crypts were studied during 1,2-dimethylhydrazine-induced carcinogenesis using [ 3H]thymidine autoradiography as a probe. 1,2-dimethylhydrazine (20 mg/kg) and vehicle (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) control rats received weekly s.c. injections for 20 wk. All animals received a pulse of [ 3H]thymidine before death at weeks 2, 6, 10, 16, 22, 26, or 30. In addition, 8 animals unexposed to 1,2-dimethylhydrazine or vehicle served as baseline controls. Dramatic regional differences were noted in the baseline controls. Crypt length, labeling index, and proliferative zone size were all significantly greater distally than proximally (p < 0.05), whereas the labeling index of the proliferative zone tended to be enhanced proximally. During 1,2-dimethylhydrazine treatment the crypt length, labeling index, and proliferative zone size increased in both regions. As these parameters changed in parallel, the differences between proximal and distal colon did not change significantly during carcinogenesis. Actual tumor formation did differ, however, with tumors appearing earlier and in greater abundance in the distal colon. These findings show similar proliferative changes in both the proximal and distal colon during 1,2-dimethylhydrazine treatment and indicate that the enhanced baseline proliferative state of the distal colon compared with the proximal colon must be considered in the process of tumor formation.