A high-fat diet increases the risk of colon, breast and prostate cancer. The molecular mechanism by which dietary lipids promote tumorigenesis is unknown. Their effects may be mediated at least in part by the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs). These ligand-activated nuclear receptors modulate gene expression in response to fatty acids, lipid-derived metabolites and antidiabetic drugs. To explore the role of the PPARs in diet-induced carcinogenesis, we treated mice predisposed to intestinal neoplasia with a synthetic PPARgamma ligand. Reflecting the pattern of expression of PPARgamma in the gastrointestinal tract, treated mice developed a considerably greater number of polyps in the colon but not in the small intestine, indicating that PPARgamma activation may provide a molecular link between a high-fat diet and increased risk of colorectal cancer.