When transepithelial permeability of rat distal colon is evaluated on the basis of transepithelial electrical resistance, age does not have an effect. Age likewise did not affect the decrease in resistance brought about by phorbol ester exposure. However, age was shown to correlate with increased transepithelial permeability when diffusion of the nonelectrolyte, D-mannitol, was used as an indicator. A phorbol ester-induced increase in transepithelial permeability to D-mannitol was observed to increase with age. Basal permeability to D-mannitol was significantly higher in older rats when the animals were allowed to age on a high-fat diet. Distance from the rectum was shown to be a potential complicating factor in these studies, since distal colon closer to the rectum was observed to have lower transepithelial permeability. The potential effect of such increased leakiness on the increased frequency of colon cancer in older individuals is discussed.