Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is common worldwide and growing in importance in the West. HCC often occurs against a background of liver disease, tends to present at an advanced stage, and has a poor prognosis, suggesting that it is an ideal target for chemoprevention. We sought to identify in an animal model chemopreventive agents for HCC that might be tested in human subjects. To this end, we induced liver tumors by injecting ethyl-nitrosourea in 6-week-old male B6C3F1 mice. Two chemopreventive agents were administered over a period of 60 weeks: tamoxifen (420 mg/kg feed) and a retinoid, 13-cis-retinoic acid (200 mg/kg feed). Animals were killed at 60 weeks and their livers examined for HCC and premalignant lesions. All liver lesions (altered foci, adenomata, HCC) occurred significantly less frequently in the tamoxifen-treated group than the group given only ethylnitrosourea (HCC developed in 2 of 47 [4%] vs 11 of 44 [25%]; P<.001). On the other hand, retinoic acid appeared to increase the number of liver tumors, and in 2 animals angiosarcoma developed. Tamoxifen significantly decreased the incidence of chemical hepatocarcinogenesis in this model, suggesting an important role for estrogens in the pathogenesis of HCC and suggesting that it should be tested in human beings as a chemopreventive agent against HCC.