The aim of this study was to determine if selective inhibition of cyclooxygenase isozymes affects the initiation of carcinogen-induced colon cancer using aberrant crypt foci (ACF) as a surrogate biomarker. Male Sprague-Dawley rats (18 per group) were given single subcutaneous injections of saline (4 ml/kg), aspirin (50 mg/kg body wt) sodium salicylate (50 mg/kg), indomethacin (4 mg/kg), nabumetone (100 mg/kg), or 16,16-dimethyl-prostaglandin E2 (50 mg/kg) for three days. On day 4, 12 rats per group were given a subcutaneous injection of 1,2-dimethylhydrazine (12 mg base/kg body wt) and six rats per group received vehicle alone (4 ml/kg) every week for eight weeks, after which drug treatment ceased. Control and six carcinogen-treated rats per group were killed at this time and the remaining six rats per group killed 22 weeks later. Colons were scored for ACF number and size. Only aspirin caused a significant reduction in total ACF and ACF formation at the early time point, but at the later time, there were no significant differences between groups. ACF from all treatment groups increased in size at similar rates at both time points. Thus, only aspirin demonstrated a significant, although reversible, suppression of carcinogen-induced ACF. Possible mechanisms of action and the clinical implications of aspirin chemoprevention are discussed.