Circumstantial evidence indicates that progestins reduce the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer. We report that the tumorigenic capacity of human ovarian carcinoma (SKOV-3) cells inoculated into the peritoneal cavity of athymic mice is suppressed by pretreatment with subcutaneous progesterone-releasing pellets. Numbers of tumor implants on the intestines/mesentery and invasiveness into underlying host tissues were reduced at 6 weeks following exposure to progesterone. Progesterone prevented tumors from forming on the liver. Life spans of progesterone-treated animals were prolonged. There was no beneficial effect of administration of progesterone if initiated after ovarian tumors had become established on organ surfaces. Our findings implicate a role for progesterone in ovarian cancer prophylaxis.