A plant polysaccharide, Aloe gel extract, was reported to have an inhibitory effect on benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P)-DNA adduct formation in vitro and in vivo. Hence, chemopreventive effects of plant polysaccharides [Aloe barbadensis Miller (APS), Lentinus edodes (LPS), Ganoderma lucidum (GPS) and Coriolus versicolor (CPS)] were compared using in vitro short-term screening methods associated with both initiation and promotion processes in carcinogenesis. In B[a]P-DNA adduct formation, APS (180 micrograms/ml) was the most effective in inhibition of B[a]P binding to DNA in mouse liver cells. Oxidative DNA damage (by 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine) was significantly decreased by APS (180 micrograms/ml) and CPS (180 micrograms/ml). In induction of glutathione S-transferase activity, GPS was found to be the most effective among plant polysaccharides. In screening anti-tumor promoting effects, APS (180 micrograms/ml) significantly inhibited phorbol myristic acetate (PMA)-induced ornithine decarboxylase activity in Balb/3T3 cells. In addition, APS significantly inhibited PMA-induced tyrosine kinase activity in human leukemic cells. APS and CPS significantly inhibited superoxide anion formation. These results suggest that some plant polysaccharides produced both anti-genotoxic and anti-tumor promoting activities in in vitro models and, therefore, might be considered as potential agents for cancer chemoprevention.