High iron exposure has been associated with colorectal neoplasia in several studies. The authors investigated plasma ferritin, an indicator of iron stores, and iron intake as risk factors for adenomatous polyps, intermediate markers for colorectal cancer. During 1991-1993, they collected fasting blood samples from and administered questionnaires to men and women 50-75 years old who visited free sigmoidoscopy clinics at a health maintenance organization. Data from 965 subjects (467 cases, 498 controls) were analyzed. Compared with those who had low-normal plasma ferritin concentrations (73-141 micrograms/liter), those with elevated concentrations ( > 289 micrograms/liter) had a multivariate-adjusted odds ratio of 1.5 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.0-2.3) after excluding subjects with possible non-iron-related elevations in ferritin. Compared with subjects consuming an adequate amount of iron (11.6-13.6 mg/day), multivariate-adjusted odds ratios were 1.6 (95% CI 1.1-2.4) for < 11.6 mg/day and 1.4 (95% CI 0.9-2.0) for > 27.3 mg/day. These results provide further support for a weak positive association between iron exposure and colorectal polyps.