The diterpenes cafestol and kahweol (C&K) have been identified in animal models as two potentially chemoprotective agents present in green and roasted coffee beans. It has been postulated that these compounds may act as blocking agents by producing a co-ordinated modulation of multiple enzymes involved in carcinogen detoxification. In this study, we investigated the effects of C&K against the covalent binding of aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) metabolites to DNA. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were treated with increasing amounts of a mixture of C&K in the diet (0-6200 p.p.m.) for 28 and 90 days. A dose-dependent inhibition of AFB1 DNA-binding was observed using S9 and microsomal subcellular fractions from C&K-treated rat liver in an in vitro binding assay. Significant inhibition was detected at 2300 p.p.m. and maximal reduction of DNA adduct formation to nearly 50% of the control value was achieved with 6200 p.p.m. of dietary C&K. Two complementary mechanisms may account for the chemopreventive action of cafestol and kahweol against aflatoxin B1 in rats. A decrease in the expression of the rat activating cytochrome P450s (CYP2C11 and CYP3A2) was observed, as well as a strong induction of the expression of the glutathione-S-transferase (GST) subunit GST Yc2, which is known to detoxify highly the most genotoxic metabolite of AFB1. These data and the previously demonstrated effects of C&K against the development of 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA)-induced carcinogenesis at various tissue sites suggest the potential widespread effect of these coffee components against chemical carcinogenesis.