Background Colorectal cancer is a preventable disease if caught at early stages. This disease is highly aggressive and has a higher incidence in African Americans. Several biomarkers and mutations of aggressive tumor behavior have been defined such as metastasis-associated in colon cancer 1 (MACC1) that was associated with metastasis in colorectal cancer patients. Here, we aim to assess colon tissue MACC1 protein and circulating MACC1 transcripts in colon preneoplastic and neoplastic African American patients. Methods Patients’ tissue samples (n = 143) have been arranged on three tissue microarrays for normal (n = 26), adenoma (n = 68) and cancer (n = 49) samples. Immunohistochemistry was used to detect MACC1 expression. Blood samples (n = 93) from normal (n = 45), hyperplastic (n = 15) and tubular adenoma (n = 33) patients were used to assess MACC1 transcripts using qRT-PCR. Distribution of continuous variables was tested between different diagnoses with Kruskal–Wallis test. Categorical variables were tested by Chi square test. We assessed the prognostic ability of IHC staining by calculating area under receiver operating characteristics curve (ROC) for adenoma and cancer separately. Differences between groups in terms of MACC1 transcript levels in plasma were calculated by using non-parametric (exact) Wilcoxon-Mann–Whitney tests. We performed all calculations with SPSS, version 21. Results In patient tissues, there was a statistically significant difference in MACC1 expression in normal vs. adenoma samples (p = 0.004) and normal vs. cancer samples (p < 0.001). There was however no major difference in MACC1 expression between adenoma vs. cancer cases or tubular adenomas vs tubulovillous adenomas. The area under the curve for both normal vs. adenoma and normal vs. cancer cases were 70 and 67 %, respectively. MACC1 expression was not correlated to age, gender or anatomical sample location. In patient plasma, MACC1 transcripts in adenoma patients were significantly higher than in plasma from normal patients (p = 0.014). However, the difference between normal and hyperplastic plasma MACC1 transcripts was not statistically significant. Conclusion Metastasis- associated in colon cancer 1 is expressed at early stages of colorectal oncogenesis within the affected colonic tissue in this patient cohort. The plasma transcripts can be used to stratify African American patients at risk for potential malignant colonic lesions.