The overall 5-methylcytosine (m5C) content of DNA from normal tissues varies considerably in a tissue-specific manner. By high-performance liquid chromatography, we have examined the (m5C) contents of enzymatic digests of DNA from 103 human tumors including benign, primary malignant and secondary malignant neoplasms. The diversity and large number of these tumor samples allowed us to compare the range of DNA methylation levels from neoplastic tissues to that of normal tissues from humans. Most of the metastatic neoplasms had significantly lower genomic (m5C) contents than did most of the benign neoplasms or normal tissues. The percentage of primary malignancies with hypomethylated DNA was intermediate between those of metastases and benign neoplasms. These findings might reflect an involvement of extensive demethylation of DNA in tumor progression. Such demethylation could be a source of the continually generated cellular diversity associated with cancer.