Nutritional and genetic risk factors for intestinal tumors are additive on mouse tumor phenotype, establishing that diet and genetic factors impact risk by distinct combinatorial mechanisms. In a mouse model of dietary-induced sporadic small and large intestinal cancer in WT mice in which tumor etiology, lag, incidence, and frequency reflect >90% of intestinal cancer in Western societies, dietary-induced risk altered gene expression profiles predominantly in villus cells of the histologically normal mucosa, in contrast to targeting of crypt cells by inheritance of an Apc(1638N) allele or homozygous inactivation of p21(Waf1/cip1), and profiles induced by each risk factor were distinct at the gene or functional group level. The dietary-induced changes in villus cells encompassed ectopic expression of Paneth cell markers (a lineage normally confined to the bottom of small intestinal crypts), elevated expression of the Wnt receptor Fzd5 and of EphB2 (genes necessary for Paneth cell differentiation and localization to the crypt bottom), and increased Wnt signaling in villus cells. Ectopic elevation of these markers was also present in the colon crypts, which are also sites of sporadic tumors in the nutritional model. Elevating dietary vitamin D(3) and calcium, which prevents tumor development, abrogated these changes in the villus and colon cells. Thus, common intestinal cancer driven by diet involves mechanisms of tumor development distinct from those mechanisms that cause tumors induced by the rare inheritance of a mutant adenomatous polyposis coli (Apc) allele. This is fundamental for understanding how common sporadic tumors arise and in evaluating relative risk in the population.