Papillomas induced by standard initiation-promotion protocols progress to carcinomas at a low frequency. Experimental protocols were developed to elicit papillomas with a higher probability of malignant conversion. SENCAR mice initiated by 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene were promoted by treatment with 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA) for 5, 10, 20 or 40 weeks. With promotion for 10 weeks or more, a peak of papilloma incidence at 16-20 weeks was followed by a 35-40% decrease within 3 months. A much lower papilloma response was seen in mice promoted for 5 weeks, but these papillomas persisted. The yield of malignant tumors was similar in all four groups, with 20-25 carcinomas per group of 30 mice. Thus, the papillomas induced by the first few TPA treatments are much more likely to progress to carcinomas than those which appear later. In a separate study, initiated Charles River CD-1 mice were promoted with TPA for either 12 or 52 weeks. Acetone solvent treatment was begun at Week 13 in the group treated 12 weeks with TPA. At Week 16, the papilloma incidence was identical in the two groups of mice. However, by Week 28, the papilloma yield in the continuous TPA group had increased and was twice that of the acetone group, in which papillomas had regressed. The first carcinoma arose 14 weeks earlier with continuous TPA, but the final number of carcinomas per group of 40 mice was 17 with TPA and 20 with acetone. Neither the increase in papillomas in TPA-treated mice nor the regression of papillomas after cessation of promotion with TPA affected the final carcinoma yield. This result suggests that TPA-dependent papillomas are very unlikely to progress to carcinomas. In a third experiment, promotion of initiated SENCAR mice with mezerein resulted in a small number of papillomas which had a much higher probability of progression to carcinomas than the large number of papillomas promoted by TPA. The ability to induce papillomas promoted by TPA. The ability to induce papillomas with a known probability of conversion to carcinomas will facilitate the identification of markers associated with malignant progression.