Large bowel cancer is not only the third most frequent cancer in the world but is one of the most common human malignancies in Western countries, including North America. In recent years, multidisciplinary research in epidemiology, molecular biology, and laboratory animal model studies have contributed much to our understanding of the aetiology of this cancer; more importantly, it has enabled us to devise preventive strategies. Several epidemiological studies have detected a 40 to 50% decrease in risk of colorectal cancer in individuals who regularly use aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Clinical trials with NSAIDs in patients with familial adenomatous polyposis have demonstrated that treatment with NSAIDs caused regression of pre-existing adenomas. Preclinical efficacy studies have provided scientifically sound evidence as to how NSAIDs act to retard, block, or reverse colonic carcinogenesis. Equally exciting are opportunities for effective chemoprevention with selective cyclo-oxygenase-2 inhibitors in a variety of animal models of colon cancer. Selective cyclo-oxygenase-2 inhibitors such as celecoxib have been proven to be effective chemopreventive agents against colonic carcinogenesis with minimal gastrointestinal toxicity. Our exploration of the multistep process of carcinogenesis has provided substantial insights into the mechanisms by which anti-inflammatory agents modulate these events. There is growing optimism for the view that realisation of preventive concepts in large bowel cancer will also serve as a model for preventing malignancies of the prostate and breast.