This intergroup trial was developed to determine the toxicity of relatively low doses of difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) administered to humans for 1 year. The goal was to find an appropriate DFMO dose for use in human chemoprevention trials. Patients with resected superficial bladder cancers were studied. Following stratification, they were randomized to daily DFMO doses of 0.125, 0.25, 0.5, or 1.0 g/day for a planned period of 1 year. Patients were followed closely for evidence of drug toxicity. Seventy-six patients were evenly randomized (19 per group) to receive each dose of DFMO. Forty-nine patients received DFMO for more than 200 days while 35 received the drug for > or = 350 days. No substantial drug-related toxicity was observed at any dose. DFMO doses of > or = 1 g/day for periods up to 1 year appear to be without significant toxicity in most patients. This dose range may be appropriate for use in future human cancer chemoprevention trials.