Reactive oxygen species (ROS) from both endogenous and exogenous sources can cause oxidative DNA damage and dysregulated cell signaling, which are involved in the multistage process of carcinogenesis such as tumor initiation, promotion and progression. A number of structurally different anticarcinogenic agents inhibit inflammation and tumor promotion as they reduce ROS production and oxidative DNA damage. Evidence suggests that porphyrins can interfere with the actions of various carcinogens and mutagens by forming face-to-face complexes and their antimutagenic or antigenotoxic effects may also be attributed to their antioxidant activities. However, little is known regarding the anti-tumor promoting potential and mechanism of the porphyrin compounds. Based on our previous results on the inhibitory effects of chlorophyllin (CHL), hemin and tetrakis(4-benzoic acid)porphyrin (TBAP) against two-stage mouse skin carcinogenesis, we have investigated their anti-tumor promoting mechanisms. In the present work, CHL, hemin and TBAP reduced superoxide anion generation by 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA) in differentiated HL-60 cells and the production of hydroxyl radicals by Fenton reaction. Porphyrins exert a dose-related inhibition of his(+) reversion in Salmonella typhimurium TA102 induced by tert-butylhydroperoxide (t-BOOH). DNA strand breaks by ROS derived from H(2)O(2)/Cu(II) and the formation of 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8-OH-dG) in calf thymus DNA treated with H(2)O(2)/UV also were inhibited markedly by porphyrins in a concentration-dependent manner. Furthermore, CHL, hemin and TBAP decreased myeloperoxidase (MPO) activity and H(2)O(2) formation as well as epidermal ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) activity in mouse skin treated with TPA. These results demonstrate that the antioxidative properties of porphyrins are important for inhibiting TPA-induced tumor promotion.