Although Apc mutation is widely considered an initiating event in colorectal cancer, little is known about the earliest stages of tumorigenesis following sporadic Apc loss. Therefore, we have utilized a novel mouse model that facilitates the sporadic inactivation of Apc via frameshift reversion of Cre in single, isolated cells and subsequently tracks the fates of Apc-deficient intestinal cells. Our results suggest that consistent with Apc being a 'gatekeeper', loss of Apc early in life during intestinal growth leads to adenomas or increased crypt fission, manifested by fields of mutant but otherwise normal-appearing crypts. In contrast, Apc loss occurring later in life has minimal consequences, with mutant crypts being less prone to either increased crypt fission or adenoma formation. Using the stem cell-specific Lgr5-CreER mouse, we generated different sized fields of Apc-deficient crypts via independent recombination events and found that field size correlates with progression to adenoma. To evaluate this early stage prior to adenoma formation as a therapeutic target, we examined the chemopreventive effects of sulindac on Apc-deficient occult crypt fission. We found that sulindac treatment started early in life inhibits the morphologically occult spread of Apc-deficient crypts and thus reduces adenoma numbers. Taken together these results suggest that: (i) earlier Apc loss promotes increased crypt fission, (ii) a field of Apc-deficient crypts, which can form via occult crypt fission or independent neighboring events, is an important intermediate between loss of Apc and adenoma formation and (iii) normal-appearing Apc-deficient crypts are potential unappreciated targets for cancer screening and chemoprevention.