Curcumin is derived from the spice tumeric and has antiinflammatory and antineoplastic effects in vitro and in animal models, including preventing aberrant crypt foci (ACF) and adenomas in murine models of colorectal carcinogenesis. Inhibiting the production of the procarcinogenic eicosanoids prostaglandin E₂ (PGE₂) and 5-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid (5-HETE) can suppress carcinogenesis in rodents. Curcumin reduces mucosal concentrations of PGE₂ (via inhibition of cyclooxygenases 1 and 2) and 5-HETE (via inhibition of 5-lipoxygenase) in rats. Although preclinical data support curcumin activity in many sites, the poor bioavailability reported for this agent supports its use in the colorectum. We assessed the effects of oral curcumin (2 g or 4 g per day for 30 days) on PGE₂ within ACF (primary endpoint), 5-HETE, ACF number, and proliferation in a nonrandomized, open-label clinical trial in 44 eligible smokers with eight or more ACF on screening colonoscopy. We assessed pre- and posttreatment concentrations of PGE₂ and 5-HETE by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectroscopy in ACF and normal-tissue biopsies; ACF number via rectal endoscopy; proliferation by Ki-67 immunohistochemistry; and curcumin concentrations by high-performance liquid chromatography in serum and rectal mucosal samples. Forty-one subjects completed the study. Neither dose of curcumin reduced PGE₂ or 5-HETE within ACF or normal mucosa or reduced Ki-67 in normal mucosa. A significant 40% reduction in ACF number occurred with the 4-g dose (P < 0.005), whereas ACF were not reduced in the 2-g group. The ACF reduction in the 4-g group was associated with a significant, five-fold increase in posttreatment plasma curcumin/conjugate levels (versus pretreatment; P = 0.009). Curcumin was well tolerated at both 2 g and 4 g. Our data suggest that curcumin can decrease ACF number, and this is potentially mediated by curcumin conjugates delivered systemically.