The association between inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and colorectal cancer (CRC) is being increasingly investigated. HtrA1 overexpression inhibits cell growth and proliferation by influencing apoptosis, invasiveness and migration of tumour cells. In the present study, HtrA1 expression was analysed in 228 colon tissue samples from patients with CRC, adenoma with high-grade dysplasia (AHD), adenoma with low-grade dysplasia (ALD), ulcerative colitis of >10 year duration (UCL), ulcerative colitis of <5 year duration (UCS) and colonic diverticulitis (D), and was compared with its expression in normal colon tissues (NCTs) collected 5 cm from the CRC lesion and in healthy colon mucosa (HC), to establish whether HtrA1 can serve as a biomarker for these conditions. All tissue specimens came from Italian Caucasian subjects. The main finding of the present study was that HtrA1 expression was significantly reduced in CRC and UCL tissues compared with that observed in both NCT and HC samples and with tissues from the other patients. In particular, a similar HtrA1 expression was detected in the stromal compartment of UCL and CRC samples. In contrast, the HtrA1 level was significantly lower (p=0.0008) in UCL compared with UCS tissues, suggesting an inverse relationship between HtrA1 expression and ulcerative colitis duration. HtrA1 immunostaining in the stromal compartment of AHD and ALD tissues showed no differences compared with the HC tissues. No data are available on the immunohistochemical localization of HtrA1 in CRC or IBD. The present findings suggest that HtrA1 could serve as a marker to identify UCL patients at high risk of developing CRC.