The objective of this study was to evaluate the chemopreventive potential of the black tea polyphenols Polyphenon-B and BTF-35 during the preinitiation phase of 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA)-induced hamster buccal pouch (HBP) carcinogenesis. Hamsters were divided into six groups. Animals in groups 2 and 3 received diet containing Polyphenon-B and BTF-35, respectively, 4 weeks before carcinogen administration when they were 6 weeks of age and continued until the final exposure to carcinogen. At 10 weeks of age, animals in groups 1, 2, and 3 were painted with 0.5% DMBA three times a week for 14 weeks. Animals in groups 4 and 5 were given Polyphenon-B and BTF-35 alone, respectively, as in groups 2 and 3. Animals in group 6 served as control. All the animals were sacrificed after an experimental period of 18 weeks. Phase I and phase II xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes and 8-hydroxy-deoxyguanosine (8-OH-dG) in the buccal pouch and liver were used as biomarkers of chemoprevention. Hamsters painted with DMBA showed increased expression of 8-OH-dG and enhanced activities of phase I (CYP450; total as well as CYP1A1, 1A2, and 2B isoforms and cytochrome b5) and phase II (GST and quinone reductase) xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes with increased immunohistochemical expression of CYP1A1, and CYP1B1 isoforms in the buccal pouch. This was accompanied by increased phase I and decreased phase II enzyme activities in the liver. Administration of Polyphenon-B and BTF-35 significantly decreased tumor incidence, oxidative DNA damage, phase I enzyme activities as well as expression of CYP1A1 and CYP1B1 isoforms, while enhancing phase II enzyme activities in the buccal pouch and liver. Our results provide a mechanistic basis for the chemopreventive potential of black tea polyphenols. Furthermore, the greater efficacy of BTF-35 in chemoprevention of HBP carcinomas via inhibition of oxidative DNA damage and modulation of xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes may have a major impact in human oral cancer prevention.