Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as piroxicam and sulindac, are known to inhibit development of aberrant crypt foci (ACF) and cancer in the colon. However, these agents cause gastrointestinal side-effects. Nimesulide is a selective inhibitor of cyclooxygenase 2 and has been shown to have a more potent anti-inflammatory action than piroxicam, but be less ulcerogenic and, therefore, a potentially more useful chemopreventive agent. To assess this possibility the inhibitory effects of nimesulide on the formation of ACF induced by azoxymethane in rat colon were investigated, and compared with those of piroxicam and sulindac. Male F344 rats were treated s.c. with 15 mg/kg body weight azoxymethane once a week for 2 weeks and given 50, 100 or 200 ppm nimesulide, 200 ppm piroxicam, or 200 ppm sulindac in their diet from the day before the first carcinogen treatment until the end of the experiment at week 4. At this time, nimesulide at doses of 50, 100 and 200 ppm had reduced the numbers of azoxymethane-induced ACF to 75%, 71% and 65% respectively compared to the control. The number of azoxymethane-induced ACF per colon in the group given 200 ppm nimesulide was almost the same as in those given 200 piroxicam, and lower than that in the group given 200 ppm sulindac. These results suggest that nimesulide, a selective cyclooxygenase 2 inhibitor, warrants attention as a candidate for chemopreventive agent with low toxicity, active against colon carcinogenesis.