Clear cell renal cancer contains a large quantity of cholesterol ester (300-mg./gm. protein). To determine whether abnormalities in cholesterol transport could account for this sterol accumulation, the uptake, release, and imaging capabilities of intravenously injected 131I-6-iodomethyl-29-norcholesterol, a cholesterol analogue, were studied preoperatively in five patients with clear cell renal cancer. At surgery, samples of the liver, tumor, adrenal, and non-tumor kidney were obtained for analysis. 131I-sterol uptake by the tumor, when normalized for cholesterol content, was less than for adrenal, liver or kidney. In contrast, release of preloaded 131I-sterol from the human tumors was consistently slower than for normal kidney. The reduced release of free cholesterol from renal cancer cells may, in part, be responsible for the accumulation of cholesterol in human renal cancer.