(CA)n simple repeats in DNA were examined at 17 loci in 18 human squamous cell carcinomas of the esophagus and compared with those in normal esophageal tissue from the same patients. Six loci were examined in 32 esophageal papillomas that had been induced by N-nitrosomethylbenzylamine in BD VI rats. Length-altered CA repeats were found in two human tumors and four rat papillomas. Loss of heterozygosity was observed in three human tumors; two rat papillomas had lost microsatellite bands that are common in inbred BD VI rats. Both (CA)n microsatellite length alteration and loss of heterozygosity were clustered at certain loci in the human tumor samples and in the chemically induced rat esophageal tumors. Our findings indicate that genomic instability that results in alteration of repeated sequences not only occurs in human tumors but may also be a consequence of chemical carcinogenesis in rodents.