The tumor initiating activity on mouse skin of 5-hydroxymethylchrysene (5-HOMeC), a major metabolite of the carcinogen, 5-methylchrysene (5-MeC), was investigated. After an initiating dose of 30 μg, with promotion by tetradecanoylphorbol acetate, 5-HOMeC induced skin tumors in 90% of the animals, with 9.5 tumors/mouse. 5-MeC gave a 75% incidence of skin tumors with 6.2 tumors/mouse. The tumorigenic activities after a 10μg initiating dose were: 5-HOMeC, 45% skin tumor-bearing animals and 2.6 tumors/-mouse; 5-MeC, 55% skin tumor-bearing animals and 5.6 tumors/mouse. In contrast, 6-hydroxymethylchrysene was inactive. To investigate the mechanism of activation of 5-HOMeC, 3-fluoro-5-hydroxymethylchrysene (3-F-5-HOMeC) and 7-fluoro-5-hydroxymethylchrysene (7-F-5-HOMeC) were prepared and assayed for tumor initiating activity at a dose of 30 μg. (7-F-5-HOMeC) gave 95% tumor-bearing animals and 7.9 tumors/animal whereas 3-F-5-HOMeC gave only 5% tumor-bearing animals and 0.1 s/animal. The inhibition of tumorigenicity by substitution of fluorine at the 3-position, but not the 7-position of 5-HOMeC is strictly analogous to results obtained previously with 5-MeC and suggests a similar mechanism of activation for both compounds. The metabolites formed upon incubation of 5-HOMeC with cofactors and the 9000 × g supernatant from Aroclor pretreated rats were separated by h.p.l.c. The 1,2-dihydrodiol and 7,8-dihydrodiol of 5-HOMeC were identified. The major phenolic metabolite was identified as 1-hydroxy-5-hydroxymethylchrysene. In the in vitro metabolism of 7-F-5-HOMeC under the same conditions, we identified the 1,2-dihydrodiol but not the 7,8-dihydrodiol. In the metabolism of 3-F-5-HOMeC, oxidation in the 1-4 ring was inhibited relative to that observed in the metabolism of 5-HOMeC. These results suggest that 5-HOMeC is activated primarily through formation of its 1,2-dihydrodiol.