The effects of dietary supplementation of flavonol quercetin on both 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene (DMBA)- and N-nitrosomethylurea-induced mammary cancer in female Sprague-Dawley rats were determined. Quercetin diet was started 1 wk before intragastric instillation of DMBA (65 mg/kg of body weight) or i.v. injection of N-nitrosomethylurea (50 mg/kg of body weight) and was continued during the entire period (20 wk) of the experiment. Dietary quercetin inhibited both the incidence and the number of palpable rat mammary tumors; rats fed on 2% quercetin had 25% less incidence of mammary cancer, while the average number of mammary tumors per rat was reduced by 39% at 20 wk post-DMBA administration compared to animals on a control diet. In a separate experiment, a 5% quercetin diet elicited a greater inhibitory effect on the induction of rat mammary tumors by DMBA than was observed with a 2% quercetin diet. The inhibitory effect of quercetin on mammary tumor incidence in rats on 2% and 5% diets and on tumor multiplicity in animals on a 5% diet was statistically significant (P < 0.05). In addition, the risk of the development of a palpable tumor (as determined by the nonparametric estimate of the hazard function) in the quercetin-fed group was lower than the group on control diet throughout the course of the experiment. Furthermore, 5% dietary quercetin significantly inhibited (P < 0.05), although to a lesser extent than observed in DMBA-induced tumor formation, both the incidence and the number of palpable mammary tumors per rat induced by N-nitrosomethylurea. Dietary quercetin did not elicit any detectable sign of toxicity. The gain in body weight in rats on the quercetin diet and the quantity of diet consumed per rat per week were similar to those for rats on the control diet.
The work was supported by American Institute of Cancer Research Grant 86-A45-REV to A. K. V.