Curcumin has been widely used as a spice and coloring agent in foods. Recently, curcumin was found to possess chemopreventive effects against skin cancer, forestomach cancer, colon cancer and oral cancer in mice. Clinical trials of curcumin for prevention of human cancers are currently ongoing. In this study, we examine the chemopreventive effect of curcumin on murine hepatocarcinogenesis. C3H/HeN mice were injected i.p. with N-diethylnitrosamine (DEN) at the age of 5 weeks. The curcumin group started eating 0.2% curcumin-containing diet 4 days before DEN injection until death. The mice were then serially killed at the scheduled times to examine the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and changes in intermediate biological markers. At the age of 42 weeks, the curcumin group, as compared with the control group (DEN alone), had an 81% reduction in multiplicity (0.5 versus 2.57) and a 62% reduction in incidence (38 versus 100%) of development of HCC. A series of intermediate biological markers were examined by western blot. While hepatic tissues obtained from the DEN-treated mice showed a remarkable increase in the levels of p21(ras), PCNA and CDC2 proteins, eating a curcumin-containing diet reversed the levels to normal values. These results indicate that curcumin effectively inhibits DEN-induced hepatocarcinogenesis in the mouse. The underlying mechanisms of the phenomenon and the feasibility of using curcumin in the chemoprevention of human HCC should be further explored.