Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), a common malignancy worldwide, is an important contributor to the overall international cancer burden. Squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) induced by 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]- anthracene (DMBA) in the HBP reiterate many of the features observed in human OSCCs. The major risk factors associated with human oral cancer such as tobacco, betel quid and alcohol promote HBP carcinogenesis. SCCs induced by DMBA in the cheek pouch of Syrian hamsters are morphologically and histologically similar to human OSCC. Like human oral carcinogenesis, HBP carcinogenesis is a multistep process that involves sequential progression from hyperplasia to invasive carcinoma through varying degrees of dysplasia. In addition, HBP tumours express several biochemical and molecular markers that are also expressed in human OSCC. Multiple signaling pathways are dysfunctional in both human and hamster OSCCs. In particular, cell proliferation, apoptosis and angiogenesis are intricately interlinked in malignant transformation of the HBP mucosa by DMBA. The HBP carcinogenesis model is the best-known animal system for intervention by chemopreventive agents because of easy accessibility for examination, and follow-up of lesions. A number of synthetic and natural products have been documented to exhibit chemopreventive efficacy in the HBP model. Chemoprevention studies in the HBP model can serve as a crucial link in the potential efficacy assessment of candidate agents for oral cancer prevention and therapy.