A wide variety of phenolic substances derived from spice possess potent antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic activities. Examples are curcumin, a yellow colouring agent, contained in turmeric (Curcuma longa L., Zingiberaceae), -gingerol, a pungent ingredient present in ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe, Zingiberaceae) and capsaicin, a principal pungent principle of hot chili pepper (Capsicum annuum L, Solanaceae). The chemopreventive effects exerted by these phytochemicals are often associated with their antioxidative and anti-inflammatory activities. Cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX-2) has been recognized as a molecular target of many chemopreventive as well as anti-inflammatory agents. Recent studies have shown that COX-2 is regulated by the eukaryotic transcription factor NF-kappaB. This short review summarizes the molecular mechanisms underlying chemopreventive effects of the aforementioned spice ingredients in terms of their effects on intracellular signaling cascades, particularly those involving NF-kappaB and mitogen-activated protein kinases.