Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a collective term which refers to a mixture of positional and geometric isomers of linoleic acid. It is naturally occurring in meat and dairy products. We have previously reported (Ip, C., Chin, S. F., Scimeca, J. A., and Pariza, M. W. Cancer Res., 51: 6118–6124, 1991) that 1% CLA in the diet suppressed mammary carcinogenesis in rats given a high dose (10 mg) of 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene. In the present study, dietary CLA between 0.05 and 0.5% was found to produce a dose-dependent inhibition in mammary tumor yield when fed chronically to rats treated with a lower dose (5 mg) of 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene. Short-term CLA feeding for 5 weeks, from weaning to the time of carcinogen administration at 50 days of age, also offered significant protection against subsequent tumor occurrence. This period corresponds to maturation of the mammary gland to the adult stage in the rat. The inhibitory response to short-term CLA exposure was observed with the use of 2 different carcinogens: 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene and methylnitrosourea. The fact that CLA was protective in the methylnitrosourea model suggests that it may have a direct modulating effect on susceptibility of the target organ to neoplastic transformation. The proliferative activity of the mammary epithelium was assessed by the incorporation of bromodeoxyuridine. Immunohistochemical staining results showed that CLA reduced the labeling index of the lobuloalveolar compartment, but not that of the ductal compartment of the mammary tree. Since the lobuloalveolar structures are derived from the terminal end buds which are the sites of carcinogenic transformation, the above finding is consistent with the bioassay data of tumor inhibition. Thus, changes in gland development and morphogenesis may be a locus of action of CLA in modulating mammary carcinogenesis. CLA is a unique anticarcinogen because it is present in foods from animal sources. Furthermore, its efficacy in cancer protection is manifest at dietary concentrations which are close to the levels consumed by humans.


This work was supported by a gift from Kraft General Foods, Inc.

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