Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) inhibit prostaglandin synthesis and tumor growth in the rodent colon. We assessed NSAID use in relation to risk of human large-bowel cancer in a hospital-based, case-control study of 1326 patients with colorectal cancer and 4891 control patients. For regular NSAID use that continued into the year before interview, the multivariate relative risk estimate was 0.5 (95% confidence interval, 0.4 to 0.8); the estimate decreased as the duration of use increased, but the trend was not statistically significant. Similar results were obtained whether cancer or non-cancer controls were used, and the inverse association was apparent for both colon cancer and rectal cancer in men and women and in subjects younger and older than 60 years. Regular NSAID use that had been discontinued at least 1 year previously and non-regular use were not associated with risk. Almost all regular NSAID use was of aspirin-containing drugs. The present data suggest that the sustained use of NSAIDs reduces the incidence of human large-bowel cancer.