For several years, our laboratory has been evaluating the ability of lyophilized (freeze-dried) black raspberries (Rubus occidentalis, BRBs), blackberries (R. fructicosus, BBs), and strawberries (Fragaria ananasia, STRWs) to inhibit carcinogen-induced cancer in the rodent esophagus. To assure "standardized" berry preparations for study, each berry type is of the same cultivar, picked at about the same degree of ripeness, washed and frozen within 2-4 h of the time of picking, and freeze-dried under conditions that preserve the components in the berries. Some of the known chemopreventive agents in berries include vitamins A, C, and E and folic acid; calcium and selenium; beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and lutein; polyphenols such as ellagic acid, ferulic acid, p-coumaric acid, quercetin, and several anthocyanins; and phytosterols such as beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol, and kaempferol. In initial bioassays, freeze-dried STRW, BRB, and BB powders were mixed into AIN-76A synthetic diet at concentrations of 5% and 10% and fed to Fischer 344 rats before, during, and after treatment with the esophageal carcinogen N-nitrosomethylbenzylamine (NMBA). At 25 wk of the bioassay, all three berry types were found to inhibit the number of esophageal tumors (papillomas) in NMBA-treated animals by 24-56% relative to NMBA controls. This inhibition correlated with reductions in the formation of the NMBA-induced O6-methylguanine adduct in esophageal DNA, suggesting that the berries influenced the metabolism of NMBA leading to reduced DNA damage. Studies are ongoing to determine the mechanisms by which berries influence NMBA metabolism and DNA adduct formation. BRBs and STRWs were also tested in a postinitiation scheme and were found to inhibit NMBA-induced esophageal tumorigenesis by 31-64% when administered in the diet following treatment of the animals with NMBA. Berries, therefore, inhibit tumor promotion and progression events as well as tumor initiation. In vivo mechanistic studies with BRBs indicate that they reduce the growth rate of premalignant esophageal cells, in part, through down-regulation of cyclooxygenase-2 leading to reduced prostaglandin production and of inducible nitric oxide synthase leading to reduced nitrate/nitrite levels in the esophagus. Based upon the preclinical data on rodents, we have initiated prevention trials in humans to determine if berries might exhibit chemopreventive effects in the esophagus.