Cancer is a heritable disorder of somatic cells. Environment and heredity are both important in the carcinogenic process. The Eker rat model of hereditary renal carcinoma (RC) is an example of a Mendelian dominantly inherited predisposition to a specific cancer in an experimental animal. Forty years after the discovery of the Eker rat in Oslo, we and Knudson's group independently identified a germline retrotransposon insertion in the rat homologue of the human tuberous sclerosis (TSC2) gene. To our knowledge, this was the first isolation of a Mendelian dominantly predisposing cancer gene in a naturally occurring animal model. Recently, we discovered a new hereditary renal carcinoma in the rat. This rat was named the “Ninon'’rat and its predisposing (Nihon) gene could be a novel renal tumor suppressor gene. This article will review the utility of these unique models for the study of problems in carcinogenesis; e.g., species-specific differences in tumorigenesis, cell stage and tissue/cell-type specific tumorigene-sis, multistep carcinogenesis, modifier gene(s) in renal carcinogenesis, cancer prevention and the development of therapeutic treatments which can be translated to human patients, as well as how environmental factors interact with cancer susceptibility gene(s). (Cancer Sci 2003; 94: 142147)