The effect of food restriction (FR) on spontaneous intestinal carcinogenesis in multiple intestinal neoplasia (Min) mice was examined. Thirty male Min mice were allotted to ad libitum feeding control and 20% FR groups from six weeks of age until the end of the 13-week experimental period. Although the total number of visible intestinal polyps in the FR group was not significantly different from the control group value, a significant decrease in large-sized polyps (>2 mm) and an increase in small-sized polyps (< or =2 mm) were observed in the distal small intestine. In this segment, the percentage of apoptotic cells counted in intestinal polyps in the FR group was significantly higher than in the control group, the percentage of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA)-positive cells not being significantly different. These results indicate that the FR may inhibit the growth of intestinal polyps in the Min mouse, and that apoptosis contributed in part to the inhibitory effect.