The tumor initiating activities on mouse skin of benzo[b]fluoranthene, (B[b]F), benzo[j]fluoranthene (B[b]F), benzo[k]fluoranthene (B[k]F) and three of their dihydrodiols-9,10-dihydro-9,10-dihydroxybenzo[b]fluoranthene (B[b]F-9,10-diol), 9,10-dihydro-9,10-dihydroxybenzo[j]fluoranthene (B[j]F-9,10-diol), and 8,9-dihydro-8,9-dihydroxybenzo[k]fluoranthene (B[k]F-8,9-diol) were evaluated. Among the parent hydrocarbons, B[b]F was the most potent tumor initiator, with activity greater than that of B(j]F but less than that of benzo[a]pyrene. B[k]F also showed tumor initiating activity, in contrast to its lack of complete carcinogenic activity on mouse skin. B[b]F-9, 10-diol, which can form a bay region dihydrodiol epoxide, was as active as B[b]F. B[j]F-9, 10-diol, which would form its dihydrodiol epoxide in a four sided pseudo-bay region, was less active than B[j]F. B[k]F-8,9-diol was inactive. These results, together with parallel metabolic studies, suggest that the formation of bay region dihydrodiol epoxides may not be the major activation mechanism in benzofluoranthene tumorigenesis.