Because of potential significance of fecal mutagens in the pathogenesis of colon cancer, the dietary pattern and fecal mutagens of 3 populations with distinct risk for the development of colon cancer, a high-risk population in New York Metropolitan area (non-Seventh-Day Adventists), a low-risk population of vegetarian Seventh-Day Adventists in New York Metropolitan area and a low-risk population in rural Kuopio, Finland were studied. The average daily intake of protein was the same in the 3 groups, but the sources were different, a greater portion coming from meat in the New York non-Seventh-Day Adventists and from vegetables in Seventh-Day Adventists. The intake of fat was lower in Seventh-Day Adventists and higher in Kuopio and in New York non-Seventh-Day Adventists. The intake of dietary fiber was high in Kuopio compared to other groups. Fecal samples collected for 2 days were freeze-dried extracted with peroxide-free diethyl ether, partially purified on a silica-gel column and assayed for mutagenicity using the Salmonella/mammalian microsome mutagenicity test. The mutagenic activity was observed with Salmonella typhimurium tester strain TA98 without microsomal activation and with TA100 with and without microsomal activation in high-risk subjects from New York consuming a high-fat, high-meat diet. The incidence of fecal mutagen activity was higher in volunteers from New York consuming a high-fat, high-meat diet compared to low-risk rural Kuopio population. None of the vegetarian Seventh-Day Adventists showed any mutagenic activity.