PURPOSE: Among the cell adhesion molecules, alpha-catenin and E-cadherin play an important part in maintaining normal cell structure. The change in expression of cell adhesion molecules affects the invasion and metastasis of a tumor and the prognosis for patients. In this study, we evaluated the relationship between the expression of cell adhesion molecules and the histopathologic characteristics of stage III colon cancer. METHODS: The relationship between the immunohistochemical expression of cell adhesion molecules and tumor progression were statistically analyzed in 40 patients with stage III colon cancer. RESULTS: There were no statistically significant correlations between loss of membranous alpha-catenin and E-cadherin expressions and such variables as histologic differentiation and lymph node disease based on the criteria of the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC). A significant correlation, however, existed between depth of mural invasion and loss of expressions of both alpha-catenin and E-cadherin (P=0.001 and P=0.002, respectively). Expressions of both alpha-catenin and E-cadherin were also significantly decreased in patients showing liver metastases during follow-up (P=0.019 and P=0.015, respectively). CONCLUSION: Immunohistochemical analyses of alpha-catenin and E-cadherin expressions may be available as predictors for distant metastasis, especially in stage III colon cancer. Such analyses may also help to identify appropriate therapeutic strategies and the need for intensive follow-up in patients with stage III colon cancer.