We assessed the effects of 78 potential chemopreventive agents in the F344 rat using two assays in which the inhibition of carcinogen-induced aberrant crypt foci (ACF) in the colon was the measure of efficacy. In both assays ACF were induced by the carcinogen azoxymethane (AOM) in F344 rats by two sequential weekly injections at a dose of 15 mg/kg. Two weeks after the last AOM injection, animals were evaluated for the number of aberrant crypts detected in methylene blue stained whole mounts of rat colon. In the initiation phase protocol agents were given during the period of AOM administration, whereas in the post-initiation assay the chemopreventive agent was introduced during the last 4 weeks of an 8 week assay, a time when ACF had progressed to multiple crypt clusters. The agents were derived from a priority listing based on reports of chemopreventive activity in the literature and/or efficacy data from in vitro models of carcinogenesis. During the initiation phase carboxyl amidoimidazole, p-chlorphenylacetate, chlorpheniramine maleate, D609, diclofenac, etoperidone, eicosatetraynoic acid, farnesol, ferulic acid, lycopene, meclizine, methionine, phenylhexylisothiocyanate, phenylbutyrate, piroxicam, 9-cis-retinoic acid, S-allylcysteine, taurine, tetracycline and verapamil were strong inhibitors of ACF. During the post-initiation phase aspirin, calcium glucarate, ketoprofen, piroxicam, 9-cis-retinoic acid, retinol and rutin inhibited the outgrowth of ACF into multiple crypt clusters. Based on these data, certain phytochemicals, antihistamines, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and retinoids show unique preclinical promise for chemoprevention of colon cancer, with the latter two drug classes particularly effective in the post-initiation phase of carcinogenesis.