Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are an important group of carcinogens that are likely to be involved as one of the causes of lung cancer in smokers and occupationally exposed individuals. Previous studies have shown that benzyl isothiocyanate (BITC), administered by gavage, is a good inhibitor of lung tumorigenesis in A/J mice induced by benzo[a]pyrene (BaP), a typical PAH carcinogen. In this study, we evaluated the effects of BITC on lung tumor induction in A/J mice by two other carcinogenic PAH in cigarette smoke - 5-methylchrysene (5-MeC) and dibenz[a,h]anthracene (DBahA). We also compared the effects of BITC with two other well known chemopreventive agents - butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and sulforaphane. In experiment 1, groups of A/J mice were treated by gavage once weekly for 8 weeks with BaP (3 micromol) or 5-MeC (2 micromol) or DBahA (1 micromol) in 0.1 ml cottonseed oil. Fifteen minutes before each treatment, the mice were gavaged with 0.1 ml cottonseed oil or 0.1 ml cottonseed oil containing 13.4 micromol or 6.7 micromol of BITC. The experiment was terminated 19 weeks after the final carcinogen treatment. BITC significantly reduced lung tumor multiplicity in all PAH-treated groups by 63.5-90.6%. In experiment 2, groups of A/J mice were treated with BaP or BITC and BaP as in experiment 1, or with BHA or sulforaphane at doses equimolar to those of BITC. BITC was significantly more effective as an inhibitor of lung tumor induction than either BHA or sulforaphane. These results firmly establish gavaged BITC as a strong inhibitor of lung tumorigenesis induced in A/J mice by PAH, and support its further development for chemoprevention of smoking-induced lung cancer.