A rat model for benign prostatic hyperplasia in man (BPH) was investigated. Citral treatment of male Copenhagen rats for 4 months via the transdermal route resulted in a marked hyperplasia of glandular epithelium and interglandular stroma in the ventral prostate. Despite the cellular hyperplasia there was not a significant increase in prostate weight. Investigations of the mechanism of action of citral showed that application of citral directly to the vagina in female, ovariectomized rats resulted in an increased proliferation of vaginal epithelium and a significant increase in the BrdUrd incorporation in vaginal epithelial cells, in short a similar effect to that of estrogen application. In an in vitro assay citral proved to inhibit estrogen binding to estrogen receptors, while no such inhibition was observed with testosterone for androgen receptors. These observations together with the estrogen implication in the BPH and the reported incidence of gynccomastia following exposure to geraniol, a precursor of citral, strongly suggest that the prostatic hyperplasia-inducing capacity of citral may be due to its estrogenic action.