Caloric restriction started at the young adult (YA) stage and the full adult (FA) stage in mice was compared, specifically focussing on whether there would be a delay in the onset time of spontaneous hepatoma or a reduction in its frequency. Caloric restriction lengthened the life spans of both groups, the YA, and FA. Both groups showed striking reductions of spontaneous hepatomas, from 70.9 +/- 3.5% for non-restricted controls down to 35.7 +/- 5.7 and 30.4 +/- 4.0%, for mice restricted from young adult, and from full adult stages, respectively; further, the numbers of tumor-free mice in the restricted groups increased by 45.7% and 38.5%, respectively, from 11.5%, in the non-restricted control. The cumulative incidences of hepatoma in the caloric restricted groups showed a delayed and lower incidence compared with those of the non-restricted group; a parallel delay might result from a weakened activity in tumor-promotion, whereas a lower frequency, might reflect a possible reduction of target cells for hepatomata development. Both effects can be assumed to have resulted from caloric restriction. When cumulative incidences of small hepatomas were compared between the two restricted groups, restriction started at the young adult stage is assumed to have caused fewer initiation stresses, as well as to have delayed promotion, as clearly evidenced by a flatter curve of incidence with a lower total incidence. Thus, the time at which caloric restriction is started plays a critical role in its subsequent effects.