The modifying effects of dietary administration of protocatechuic acid (PCA) during the progression phase of tongue carcinogenesis initiated with 4-nitroquinoline 1-oxide (4-NQO) were investigated in male F344 rats. For tumor progression we developed a new animal model, where rats initiated by 4-week treatment of 20 ppm 4-NQO in drinking water, received four cycles of 20 ppm 4-NQO to induce advanced tongue cancer (one cycle: 2 weeks of 4-NQO followed by 2 weeks of tap water), starting at 14 weeks after the initiation. In this model, metastasis of tongue cancer occurred in lungs. Starting two weeks before the cycle treatment with 4-NQO, animals were fed the 2000 ppm PCA containing diet and continued on this diet until the end of the study. At the termination of the experiment (week 32), the incidences of tongue neoplasms and preneoplastic lesions, polyamine levels in the tongue tissue, and cell proliferation activity estimated by morphometric analysis of silver-stained nucleolar organizer regions protein were compared among the groups. Feeding with PCA containing diet during the progression phase significantly decreased the occurrence of advanced tongue squamous cell carcinoma with metastasis (P<0.05) and preneoplasia (hyperplasia and dysplasia) (P<0.001). In addition, PCA exposure decreased polyamine levels in the tongue tissue (P<0.001) during progression phase. Our results suggest that dietary PCA inhibits progression of 4-NQO-induced oral carcinogenesis, and such inhibition might be related to suppression of cell proliferation by PCA.