The apparent low incidence of colon cancer in the Black population of South Africa has been ascribed to a non-Western diet. The present authors report the identification of two common 5-bp deletions at codons 1309 and 1061 of the adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) gene in a Xhosa and Zulu patient, respectively. The in vitro transcription/translation test (PTT) and a non-radioactive heteroduplex method, which facilitates resolution of enzymatically amplified DNA by agarose gel electrophoresis, were used for mutation detection. This study represents the first report of APC mutations in indigenous Black individuals clinically diagnosed with familial adenomatous polyposis coli (FAP). The two deletion mutations are responsible for FAP in 35% of affected South Africans, a frequency similar to that described in several other non-African populations. The apparently low incidence of colon cancer in the African population may be ascribed either to the rare occurrence of the 'second hit' needed for polyp formation or to a lower incidence of mutations in the APC gene.