Evidence for a role of estrogen metabolism in hormonal carcinogenesis was obtained with the Syrian hamster as an in vivo model system. Both natural and synthetic estrogens are capable of inducing a high incidence of renal carcinomas in this species. A high incidence of hepatocellular carcinomas can also be induced in the hamster with synthetic estrogens such as ethinyl estradiol or diethylstilbestrol, provided alpha-naphthoflavone (ANF) is present in the diet. Although steroid receptor-mediated hormonal events appear to be intimately involved in the process of in vivo cell transformation of both tissues, certain observations strongly suggest that nonhormonal events are also important. Despite their potent estrogenic activity at the doses used, ethinyl estradiol and alpha-zearalanol induce relatively low renal tumor incidences after 9.0 and 10.0 months of continuous treatment, respectively. A role for the metabolism of estrogens to reactive intermediates is also suggested by studies showing estrogen-induced renal tumorigenesis can be partially inhibited by concomitant administration of ANF or ascorbic acid. Consistent with this is the general correlation between the amount of catechol estrogen formed by a compound, as mediated by estrogen 2-/4-hydroxylase, and renal carcinogenicity data. Recently, additional supporting evidence has been obtained from studies involving the irreversible binding of reactive metabolites of steroidal or stilbene estrogens to hamster liver microsomal proteins.