CYP1A1 is one of the main cytochrome P450 enzymes, examined extensively for its capacity to activate compounds with carcinogenic properties. Continuous exposure to inhalation chemicals and environmental carcinogens is thought to increase the level of CYP1A1 expression in extrahepatic tissues, through the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR). Although the latter has long been recognized as a ligand-induced transcription factor, which is responsible for the xenobiotic activating pathway of several phase I and phase II metabolizing enzymes, recent evidence suggests that the AhR is involved in various cell signaling pathways critical to cell cycle regulation and normal homeostasis. Disregulation of these pathways is implicated in tumor progression. In addition, it is becoming increasingly evident that CYP1A1 plays an important role in the detoxication of environmental carcinogens, as well as in the metabolic activation of dietary compounds with cancer preventative activity. Ultimately the contribution of CYP1A1 to cancer progression or prevention may depend on the balance of procarcinogen activation/detoxication and dietary natural product extrahepatic metabolism.