The influence of bovine lactoferrin (bLf) on colon carcinogenesis was investigated in male F344 rats treated with azoxymethane (AOM). In experiment I, 2% and 0.2% bLf, and Bifidobacterium longum (B. longum) as a positive control at 3% were given in the diet for 4 weeks, along with two s.c. 15 mg/kg injections of AOM on days 1 and 8. The numbers of aberrant crypt foci (ACF) were decreased by both treatments. Similar results were obtained in experiment II of 13 weeks duration. In experiment III, animals were given three weekly injections of AOM and then received 2 or 0.2% bLf, 2% bLf-hydrolysate, or 0.1% bovine lactoferricin (bLfcin) for 36 weeks. No effects indicative of toxicity were noted, but significant reduction in both the incidence and number of adenocarcinomas of the large intestine was observed with almost all the treatments. Thus, the incidences of colon adenocarcinomas in the groups receiving 2 or 0.2% bLf, 2% bLf-hydrolysate, or 0.1% bLfcin were 15%, 25%, 26.3% and only 10%, respectively, in contrast to the 57.5% control value (p < 0.01). ACF values also exhibited reduced development. Investigation of beta-glucuronidase revealed decrease in the cecal contents of animals receiving bLf. In addition, demonstration of enhancement of NK activity by bLf indicated that its inhibitory effects could have been related to elevated immune cytotoxicity.