Urinary genotoxicity assays measure the internal dose of genotoxic carcinogens, thereby providing a particularly sensitive endpoint for selecting cohorts of individuals exposed to cigarette smoke or other mutagens excreted with urines, as well as for evaluating the modulation of this parameter after administration of chemopreventive agents. Mutagenicity of urines was investigated in smoking Italian volunteers, who received oral N-acetylcysteine (NAC) at the same doses which are usually prescribed for the long-term treatment of chronic bronchitis. The daily excretion of mutagens, concentrated on XAD-2 columns and tested in Salmonella typhimurium YG1024 with S9 mix, was significantly and remarkably decreased by NAC in the majority of the subjects examined so far. Time-course experiments showed that this effect starts since the first day of drug administration and reverses when treatment is withdrawn. In addition, NAC administration almost totally prevented urinary genotoxicity in one subject whose concentrated urines induced a differential lethality in Escherichia coli strains having distinctive DNA repair capacities. The decrease of urinary genotoxicity produced by NAC in the majority of smokers correlates with the ability of this thiol to prevent tumors and to affect a variety of intermediate biomarkers in animal models. Modulation of the urinary excretion of mutagens is one of the biomarkers evaluated in two ongoing Phase II chemoprevention trials. One study involves the oral administration of NAC in Dutch smokers. The pretreatment urine samples of all the subjects so far recruited are clearly mutagenic. The other study involves the oral administration of the dithiolethione oltipraz to individuals living in the Qidong County of the People's Republic of China, an area of high endemy for HBV infection and of high exposure to aflatoxins. Additionally, a large proportion of the recruited male subjects are smokers. A total of 500 urine specimens will be assayed from 240 subjects according to a complex protocol arranged in three consecutive phases.