Obesity increases the risk of colon cancer. Hyperleptinemia is characteristic of obesity and leptin has been reported to be a colonic growth factor. We have examined the involvement of the cyclo-oxygenase (COX) pathways in the proliferation and anti-apoptotic effects of leptin. Leptin stimulated proliferation in HT-29 colon cancer cells: this was unaffected by inhibition of COX-1, COX-2, protein kinase C, or the epidermal growth factor receptor. Leptin did not increase COX-2 mRNA or COX-derived prostaglandin E2 production. Celecoxib induced apoptosis in a COX-independent manner. Leptin reduced both serum starvation- and celecoxib-induced apoptosis. Inhibition of ERK, p38 MAP kinase, and nuclear factor (NF)-κB abolished the growth-promoting and anti-apoptotic effects of leptin. Treatment of HT-29 cells with leptin stimulated phosphorylation of ERK and p38 MAP kinase and nuclear translocation of active NF-κB. We conclude that leptin stimulates colon cancer proliferation via COX-independent pathways and reduces celecoxib-induced apoptosis via ERK, p38 MAP kinase, and NF-κB pathways.