Benzoyl peroxide, a widely used free radical-generating compound, promoted both papillomas and carcinomas when it was topically applied to mice after 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene initiation. Benzoyl peroxide was inactive on the skin as a complete carcinogen or as a tumor initiator. A single topical application of benzoyl peroxide produced a marked epidermal hyperplasia and induced a large number of dark basal keratinocytes, effects similar to those produced by the potent tumor promoter 12-O-tetradecanoyl phorbol-13-acetate. Benzoyl peroxide, like other known tumor promoters, also inhibited metabolic cooperation (intercellular communication) in Chinese hamster cells. In view of these results caution should be recommended in the use of this and other free radical-generating compounds.