Turmeric and its active principle curcumin have been extensively investigated for their antimutagenic and antioxidant effects in bacterial and animal systems. Because oral cancers are common in India, an experimental model of 7,12-dimethylbenzanthracene-induced buccal pouch tumors in Syrian Golden hamsters was used to evaluate the tumor retardation effects of turmeric and curcumin. Turmeric and/or curcumin was administered in the diet and/or applied locally for 14 weeks along with 7,12-dimethylbenzanthracene. After the experimental period, the animals were sacrificed and oral pouches were examined for tumor number and size. DNA adducts were estimated by 32P postlabel assay in the cheek pouches. Neoplastic changes were graded by histopathology. The results of the study suggest that turmeric or curcumin in the diet and/or applied locally significantly reduced DNA adducts at the target site. Tumor number and tumor burden were significantly lower (p < 0.05) in the animals that received turmeric in the diet and applied locally. The histopathological examinations suggested that the neoplastic grading was least in the animals fed or painted with curcumin (p < 0.05). The current study demonstrates that turmeric or curcumin administered in the diet or applied as paint may have a plausible chemopreventive effect on oral precancerous lesions.