In the present study the feasibility of applying synchrotron radiation to the morphological study of early-stage lung cancer has been investigated. Lewis lung cancer was implanted and grown in a nude mouse for different periods, and imaged using phase-contrast synchrotron X-rays. Morphological differences were clearly shown between the normal lung and cancerous tissues at this early stage. Irregular and tortuous angiogenesis were found in the periphery region of the developing lung cancer. Results from this study indicate that synchrotron X-rays can be used for imaging cancer development and progression with minimal invasion. (C) 2008 International Union of Crystallography.