Epidemiologic and laboratory studies suggest a cancer protective effect and/or lack of a tumor promoting effect by dietary olive oil as compared with other types of non-marine oils. Squalene, a constituent of olive oil, and a key intermediate in cholesterol synthesis may be regarded as partially responsible for the beneficial effects of olive oil, which include decreased mortality rates among populations with high olive oil consumption. Thus, in this study we have assessed the chemopreventive efficacy of squalene on azoxymethane (AOM)-induced colonic aberrant crypt foci (ACF). In addition, we measured the effect of squalene on serum cholesterol levels in the rats. Male F34 rats (5 weeks old) were fed the control diet (modified AIN-76A) or experimental diets containing 1% squalene or 320 p.p.m. sulindac. Two weeks later, all animals except those in vehicle (normal saline)-treated groups were s.c. injected with AOM (15 mg/kg body wt, once weekly for 2 weeks). At 16 weeks of age, all rats were killed, colons were evaluated for ACF and serum was assayed for the cholesterol levels. As expected, dietary administration of sulindac suppressed ACF development and reduced crypt multiplicity, i.e. number of aberrant crypts/focus. Administration of dietary squalene inhibited total ACF induction and crypt multiplicity by approximately >46% (P < 0.001). Further, squalene at a level of 1% did not show any significant effect on serum cholesterol levels. Our finding that squalene significantly suppresses colonic ACF formation and crypt multiplicity strengthens the hypothesis that squalene possesses chemopreventive activity against colon carcinogenesis.