Conjugated dienoic derivative of linoleic acid (CLA) is a collective term which refers to a mixture of positional and geometric isomers of linoleic acid. It is a naturally occurring substance in food and is present at higher concentrations in products from animal sources. The present study reports that synthetically prepared CLA is an effective agent in inhibiting the development of mammary tumors induced by dimethylbenz(a)anthracene. Rats were fed either the AIN-76A basal diet or the same diet supplemented with 0.5, 1, or 1.5% CLA by weight. These diets were started 2 weeks before carcinogen administration and continued until the end of the experiment. The total number of mammary adenocarcinomas in the 0.5, 1, and 1.5% CLA groups was reduced by 32, 56, and 60%, respectively. The final tumor incidence and cumulative tumor weight were similarly diminished in rats fed the CLA-containing diets. In general, there appeared to be a dose-dependent protection at levels of 1% CLA and below, but no further beneficial effect was evident at levels above 1%. Chronic feeding of up to 1.5% CLA produced no adverse consequences in the animals. Analysis of the phospholipid fraction from liver and mammary tumor extracts showed that only the c9,t11 isomer of CLA was incorporated and that the level of incorporation increased with dietary intake. An interesting property of CLA is its ability to suppress peroxide formation from unsaturated fatty acid in a test-tube model (Cancer Res., Ha et al. 50: 1097–1101, 1990). In view of this information, the amount of thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances (lipid peroxidation products) present endogenously in liver and mammary gland was quantitated. The feeding of CLA (for either 1 or 6 months) resulted in a decrease in the extent of lipid peroxidation in the mammary gland, but such a suppressive effect was not detected in the liver. It should be noted that maximal antioxidant activity was observed with only 0.25% CLA in the diet, whereas maximal tumor inhibition was achieved at about 1% CLA. Hence there is a discrepancy between the antioxidant efficacy of CLA and its anticarcinogenic potency, suggesting that some other mechanisms might be involved in cancer protection. Unlike the stimulatory effect of linoleic acid in carcinogenesis (Cancer Res., Ip et al., 45: 1997–2001, 1985), the reaction of CLA in cancer prevention is specific, and CLA is more powerful than any other fatty acid in modulating tumor development.


This work was supported by a gift from Kraft General Foods, Inc., and by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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