Animal studies show that increasing large bowel butyrate concentration through ingestion of butyrylated or resistant starches opposes carcinogen-induced tumorigenesis, which is consistent with population data linking greater fiber consumption with lowered colorectal cancer (CRC) risk. Butyrate has been shown to regulate the apoptotic response to DNA damage. This study examined the impact of increasing large bowel butyrate concentration by dietary butyrylated starch on the colonic epithelium of rats treated with the genotoxic carcinogen azoxymethane (AOM). Four groups of 10 male rats were fed AIN-93G based-diets containing either low amylose maize starch (LAMS), LAMS with 3% tributyrin, 10% high amylose maize starch (HAMS) or 10% butyrylated HAMS (HAMSB). HAMS and HAMSB starches were cooked by heating in water. After 4 weeks, rats were injected once with AOM and killed 6 h later. Rates of apoptosis and proliferation were measured in colonic epithelium. Short-chain fatty acid concentrations in large bowel digesta and hepatic portal venous plasma were higher in HAMSB than all other groups. Apoptotic rates in the distal colon were increased by HAMSB and correlated with luminal butyrate concentrations but cellular proliferation rates were unaffected by diet. The increase in apoptosis was most marked in the base and proliferative zone of the crypt. Regulation of luminal butyrate using HAMSB increases the rates of apoptotic deletion of DNA-damaged colonocytes. We propose this pro-apoptotic function of butyrate plays a major role reducing tumour formation in the AOM-treated rat and that these data support a potential protective role of butyrate in CRC.