The survival of 119 colorectal cancer patients was analyzed in the light of the overexpression status of the c-myc proto-oncogene mRNA and the point mutation status of the p53 tumor suppressor gene in the primary adenocarcinoma. The presence of >3 fold overexpression of c-myc mRNA in the primary tumor was found to be associated with a better prognosis than patients who evinced no overexpression (P = 0.02, log rank analysis). Point mutation of the p53 tumor suppressor gene was found to be associated with a poorer patient prognosis (P = 0.007, log rank analysis). Endogenous levels of c-myc and point mutation of p53 both contributed independently toward a poorer patient prognosis in Cox regression modeling. The better prognosis seen in patients who overexpress c-myc was offset when c-myc overexpression was coupled with a point mutated p53 gene. These results suggest that in colorectal adenocarcinoma c-myc deregulation leads to increased apoptotic death, but that this response may be modulated by a more downstream event such as point mutation of the p53 gene.