Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a phenolic antioxidant that has been found to suppress the activity of skin tumor promoters. In this study, we investigated the effect of BHA on the activity of ornithine decarboxylase (ODC, an indicator of tumor promotion) and its gene expression induced by 12-O-tetradecanoyl-phorbol-13-acetate (TPA) in mouse skin. TPA-induced ODC activity was markedly inhibited by the topical application of 55 mumol of BHA (the inhibition rate at 6 h was about 80%). In Northern and dot-blot analysis, the TPA-induced increase in ODC mRNA was shown to be markedly reduced by the same dose of BHA (the inhibition rate at 4 h was about 60%). These results suggest the involvement of a decrease in ODC gene expression in the mechanism of the inhibition of ODC activity by BHA.