The chemopreventive effects of five water-soluble organosulfur compounds, S-methylcysteine (SMC) and four analogs, were examined on the promotion stage of diethylnitrosamine hepatocarcinogenesis in male F344 rats, using the medium-term bioassay (Ito test), which is based on the two-step model of hepatocarcinogenesis. In addition, we investigated the modifying effects of SMC and cysteine on the initiation stage of rat hepatocarcinogenesis. Carcinogenic potential was scored by comparing the numbers and areas of a putative neoplastic lesion, glutathione S-transferase placental form (GST-P)--positive hepatocellular foci. SMC and cysteine significantly decreased the number and area of GST-P--positive foci when given in the promotion stage of the Ito test. When given during the initiation stage, these two organosulfur compounds also significantly inhibited focus formation. Liver ornithine decarboxylase activity after two thirds partial hepatectomy and the proportion of hepatocytes positive for proliferating cell nuclear antigen significantly decreased the number of aberrant crypt foci in the colon in a multiorgan carcinogenesis bioassay of rats. These results support SMC and cysteine as chemopreventive agents for hepatocarcinogenesis and colon carcinogenesis. Their intake may be of importance for cancer.