Anthocyanins, which are bioactive phytochemicals, are widely distributed in plants and especially enriched in tart cherries. Based on previous observations that tart cherry anthocyanins and their respective aglycone, cyanidin, can inhibit cyclooxygenase enzymes, we conducted experiments to test the potential of anthocyanins to inhibit intestinal tumor development in Apc(Min) mice and growth of human colon cancer cell lines. Mice consuming the cherry diet, anthocyanins, or cyanidin had significantly fewer and smaller cecal adenomas than mice consuming the control diet or sulindac. Colonic tumor numbers and volume were not significantly influenced by treatment. Anthocyanins and cyanidin also reduced cell growth of human colon cancer cell lines HT 29 and HCT 116. The IC(50) of anthocyanins and cyanidin was 780 and 63 microM for HT 29 cells, respectively and 285 and 85 microM for HCT 116 cells, respectively. These results suggest that tart cherry anthocyanins and cyanidin may reduce the risk of colon cancer.