Foci of aberrant crypts are putative preneoplastic lesions of colon cancer that can be detected in unsectioned colons stained with methylene blue. The ability of this assay to demonstrate chemopreventive activity was evaluated. Male Sprague-Dawley rats received two subcutaneous injections 1 week apart, of 15 mg/kg azoxymethane each. The animals started to receive the test agents in their diet 1 week prior to the first injection of azoxymethane and continuously until killed 5 weeks later. The number of foci of aberrant crypts induced by the treatment of azoxymethane was reduced from 228 foci/animal without any chemopreventive agent to 151 foci/animal by N-acetylcysteine; to 121 foci/animal by dehydroepiandrosterone; to 161 by alpha-difluoromethylornithine; and to 121 by 1,2-oxothiazolidine-4-carboxylate. The other agents (diallyl sulfide, ellagic acid and phenethyl isothiocyanate) did not significantly alter the number of foci/animal induced by azoxymethane. Animals that did not receive azoxymethane had an average of 0.72 foci/animal. Our results suggest that four of the tested agents might reduce azoxymethane-induced colon cancer, which requires confirmation. Further validation of the foci of aberrant crypt in the colon assay to screen chemicals for chemoprevention agents is warranted.