More efficient models are needed to assess potential carcinogenicity hazard of environmental chemicals based on early events in tumorigenesis. Here, we investigated time course profiles for key events in an established cancer mode of action. Using a case study approach, we evaluated two reference phthalates, di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and its stereoisomer di-n-octyl phthalate (DNOP), across the span of a two-year carcinogenicity bioassay. Male B6C3F1 mice received diets with no phthalate added (control), DEHP at 0.12, 0.60, or 1.20%, or DNOP at 0.10, 0.50, or 1.00% (n= 80–83/group) for up to 104 weeks with six interim evaluations starting at week 4. Mean phthalate doses were 139, 845, and 3147 mg/kg/day for DEHP and 113, 755, and 1281 mg/kg/day for DNOP groups, respectively. Incidence and number of hepatocellular tumors (adenoma and/or carcinoma) were greater at ≥ 60 weeks for all DEHP groups with time and dose trends, whereas DNOP had no significant effects. Key events supported a peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPARα) mode of action for DEHP, with secondary cytotoxicity at the high dose, whereas DNOP induced modest increases in PPARα activity without proliferative or cytotoxic effects. Threshold estimates for later tumorigenic effects were identified at week 4 for relative liver weight (+24%) and PPARα activity (+79%) relative to the control group. Benchmark doses (BMDs) for these measures at week 4 clearly distinguished DEHP and DNOP and showed strong concordance with values at later time points and tumorigenic BMDs. Other target sites included testis and kidney, which showed degenerative changes at higher doses of DEHP but not DNOP. Our results highlight marked differences in the chronic toxicity profiles of structurally similar phthalates and demonstrate quantitative relationships between early bioindicators and later tumor outcomes.