Aberrant crypts are aggregates of single to multiple colonic crypts evidencing hallmarks of dysplasia and may be the earliest detectable pathological lesions for colon cancer. The aberrant crypt assay has been developed in 2 protocols. In one, putative chemoprevention agents are tested for inhibitory effects when administered concomitantly with a carcinogen. In the other, the objective of this study, aberrant crypts were induced in F344 rats by parenteral injection of the colon carcinogen azoxymethane (AOM) and allowed to develop for 4 weeks, when an average of 90-100 aberrant crypt foci per colon were found in the methylene blue-stained colon. Then, during the second 4 weeks of the experiment, aberrant crypts were allowed to further develop to a frequency of > 150 foci per colon, a time when multi-crypt foci were observed. During this time we tested the inhibitory effects of 4 analgesic drugs and 2 differentiation agents for effects of aberrant crypt growth and development. We found the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs piroxicam, aspirin and ibuprofen, but not acetaminophen, to be effective in suppressing aberrant crypt formation or the progression to foci of multiple aberrant crypts. Treatment with chemosuppressing agents 13-cis-retinoic acid (13-cRA) and 4-hydroxyphenretinamide (4-HPR), known differentiating agents, however, did suppress expansion of aberrant crypt foci, with 13-cRA being the much more potent agent.