Pomegranate (Punica granatum L.) seed oil (PGO) contains more than 70% cis(c)9,trans(t)11,c13-18:3 as conjugated linolenic acids (CLN). Our previous short-term experiment demonstrated that seed oil from bitter melon (Momordica charantia) (BMO), which is rich in c9,t11,t13-CLN, inhibited the occurrence of colonic aberrant crypt foci (ACF) induced by azoxymethane (AOM). In this study, we investigated the effect of dietary PGO on the development of AOM-induced colonic malignancies and compared it with that of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). To induce colonic tumors, 6-week old male F344 rats were given subcutaneous injections of AOM (20 mg/kg body weight) once a week for 2 weeks. One week before the AOM treatment they were started on diet containing 0.01%, 0.1%, or 1% PGO or 1% CLA for 32 weeks. Upon termination of the bioassay (32 weeks) colon tumors were evaluated histopathologically. AOM exposure produced colonic adenocarcinoma with an incidence of 81% and multiplicity of 1.88 +/- 1.54 at week 32. Administration of PGO in the diet significantly inhibited the incidence (AOM + 0.01% PGO, 44%, P < 0.05; AOM + 0.1% PGO, 38%, P < 0.01; AOM + 1% PGO, 56%) and the multiplicity (AOM + 0.01% PGO, 0.56 +/- 0.73, P < 0.01; AOM + 0.1% PGO, 0.50 +/- 0.73, P < 0.005; AOM + 1% PGO, 0.88 +/- 0.96, P < 0.05) of colonic adenocarcinomas, although a clear dose-response relationship was not observed at these dose levels. CLA feeding also slightly, but not significantly, reduced the incidence and multiplicity of colonic adenocarcinomas. The inhibition of colonic tumors by PGO was associated with an increased content of CLA (c9,t11-18:2) in the lipid fraction of colonic mucosa and liver. Also, administration of PGO in the diet elevated expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) gamma protein in the non-tumor mucosa. These results suggest that PGO rich in c9,t11,c13-CLN can suppress AOM-induced colon carcinogenesis, and the inhibition is associated in part with the increased content of CLA in the colon and liver and/or increased expression of PPARgamma protein in the colon mucosa.