Significant alarm has existed among the general public in the past few years that eating red meat may cause human colon cancer. Iron in beef has been hypothesized as one of the factors in the etiology of this cancer. The present study was designed to test the hypothesis that dietary iron solely from beef would enhance colon tumorigenesis induced in rats. Tumors were induced in Sprague-Dawley rats with 1,2-dimethylhydrazine (20 mg/kg body weight for 10 weeks). Seventy male weanling rats were randomized to two dietary treatment groups with two iron sources (very lean beef vs. iron citrate) as the factor. The rats were allowed free access to the respective diet and deionized water for 27 weeks. At termination of the study, the rats were examined for location, size and type of colon or extracolonic lesions. No significant differences were found in total incidence and number of colon tumors between the beef (51.7%, 0.8 tumors/rat) and casein (62.1%, 0.9 tumors/rat) diets, although the serum iron levels of rats fed the beef diet were higher than for those fed the casein diet. The results demonstrate that, when lean beef is used as an iron source, the risk for colon carcinogenesis is not increased.