The effect of caffeine (430–500 mg/liter of drinking water) on the initiation and promotion phases of 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene (DMBA)-induced mammary gland tumorigenesis in female Sprague-Dawley rats fed a chemically defined diet containing standard (5%) or high (20%) levels of fat (corn oil) was examined. In the initiation studies, caffeine and the standard or high fat diet treatments were provided for 34 days, from 24–29 days of age to 58–63 days of age. Three days prior to termination of caffeine-fat diet treatments, each rat received a single dose of DMBA. In the promotion studies, caffeine and the standard or high fat diets were provided commencing 3 days after a single dose of DMBA (at 56–61 days of age) and until termination of the study. Caffeine consumption, during the initiation phase significantly (P < 0.05) reduced mammary carcinoma multiplicity (number of tumors/rat), in rats fed either a standard or high fat diet. In the promotion studies, prolonged consumption of caffeine in rats fed either a standard or high fat diet did not significantly effect mammary carcinoma multiplicity. In the early stages of promotion, an apparent increase in mammary carcinoma multiplicity was observed; this increase in mammary carcinoma multiplicity did not, however, reach the 5% level of statistical probability. When caffeine was administered during both the initiation and promotion phases, no significant effect on mammary carcinoma multiplicity was observed. Treatment of rats during the initiation or promotion phases with caffeinated coffee (via drinking water) mimicked the mammary tumor modulating activities of caffeine. Decaffeinated coffee consumption did not effect either the initiation or promotion phases of this tumorigenic process. In both the initiation and promotion studies, caffeine and/or coffee consumption did not significantly affect the incidence of mammary carcinomas (percentage of rats bearing mammary carcinomas) or the mean latency period of mammary tumor appearance.

Thus, in female rats fed a chemically defined standard or high fat diet, caffeine consumption can significantly influence chemical carcinogenesis of the mammary gland; an effect that is dependent upon the duration and time-span of caffeine administration.

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This research was supported by NIH Research Grant CA-37613 and a research grant from the National Coffee Association (U.S.A.).

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