Epidemiological and dietary studies suggest that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduce the risk of colon cancer, possibly through a mechanism involving inhibition of cyclooxygenase (COX)-2, which is overexpressed in premalignant adenomatous polyps and colon cancer. Because ultraviolet light (UV) can induce COX-2 and nonspecific NSAIDs can decrease UV-induced skin cancer, we evaluated the ability of two compounds, celecoxib (a specific COX-2 inhibitor) and indomethacin (a nonspecific NSAID), to block UV-induced skin tumor development in SKH:HR-1-hrBr hairless mice. Mice fed 150 or 500 ppm celecoxib showed a dose-dependent reduction (60% and 89%, respectively) in tumor yield. Indomethacin (4ppm) reduced tumor yield by 78%. Although both acute and chronic UV exposure increased cell proliferation and edema, neither compound reduced these parameters. In contrast, UV-induced prostaglandin synthesis in the epidermis was effectively blocked by both compounds. UV-induced increases in COX-2 expression in skin were also not altered in any of the treatment groups. Similarly, tumors that constitutively express high levels of COX-2 displayed no reduction by treatment with celecoxib or indomethacin. The dramatic protective effects of celecoxib suggests that specific COX-2 inhibitors may offer a way to safely reduce the risk of skin cancer in humans.