Several studies have suggested that exposure to 50 Hz magnetic fields promote chemically induced breast cancer in rats. Groups of 100 female Sprague-Dawley rats were initiated with a single 10 mg gavage dose of 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA) at 50 days of age followed by exposure to ambient fields (sham exposed), 50 Hz magnetic fields at either 1 or 5 Gauss (G) field intensity or 60 Hz fields at 1 G for 18.5 h/day, 7 days/week for 26 weeks. A vehicle control group without DMBA was included. Rats were palpated weekly for the presence of tumors. There was no effect of magnetic field exposure on body weight gains or the time of appearance of mammary tumors. At the end of 26 weeks, the animals were killed and the mammary tumors counted and measured. Mammary gland masses found grossly were examined histologically. The mammary gland carcinoma incidence was 96, 90, 95 and 85% (P < 0.05, decrease) for the DMBA controls, 1 G 50 Hz, 5 G 50 Hz and 1 G 60 Hz groups, respectively. The total numbers of carcinomas were 649, 494 (P < 0.05, decrease), 547 and 433 (P < 0.05, decrease) for the DMBA controls, 1 G 50 Hz, 5 G 50 Hz and 1 G 60 Hz groups, respectively. The number of fibroadenomas varied from 276 to 319, with the lowest number in the 1 G 60 Hz exposure group. Measurement of the tumors revealed no difference in tumor size between groups. In this breast cancer initiation-promotion study in female Sprague-Dawley rats, there was no evidence that 50 or 60 Hz magnetic fields promoted breast cancer under the conditions of this assay. This study does not support the hypothesis that magnetic field exposure can promote breast cancer in this rat model.