We have analysed the binding of human IgM to fetal, normal adult and malignant colo-rectal tissues. Using an indirect immunoperoxidase technique on sections of frozen tissues human IgM binds to all normal adult colo-rectal epithelia (n=15) tested. By contrast, 9 out of 25 colo-rectal adenocarcinomas were negative, and in the remaining 16 the staining reaction varied from staining of all the cancer areas to focal staining of a few areas. Human IgM did not bind to 14 samples of fetal intestinal epithelium (gestational age of 6-14 weeks). The binding of IgM was found to be mediated by secretory component (SC) as anti-SC antibody (anti-SC) showed a similar staining pattern as IgM and the IgM binding could be blocked by anti-SC. SC was also demonstrated in glandular epithelia of sections of all normal breast epithelia but only in 10 out of 15 breast adenocarcinomas. The loss of IgM binding and SC could not be correlated to the morphology of the adenocarcinomas. The observations on fetal, normal adult and malignant tissue suggest that IgM binding and SC may be gradually lost during dedifferentiation of normal cells, to malignant colo-rectal or breast epithelia.