We have shown previously (W. Löscher et al., Cancer Lett., 71: 75-81, 1993; M. Mevissen et al., Carcinogenesis (Lond.), 17: 903-910, 1996) that 50-Hz magnetic fields (MFs) of low [50 or 100 microTesla (T)] flux density enhance mammary gland tumor development and growth in the 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA) model of breast cancer in female Sprague Dawley rats. In these previous experiments, groups of rats were given 20 mg of DMBA (four weekly gavage doses of 5 mg each) and were MF- or sham-exposed for 13 weeks. The objective of the present study was to examine whether the use of a lower dose of DMBA (10 instead of 20 mg per rat), MF exposure of the rats before DMBA injection, and the increase of the MF exposure period after DMBA application to 26 weeks enhance the effect of MF on tumor development and growth. A group 99 rats was exposed to a homogeneous, horizontally polarized 100-microT MF of 50-Hz for 24 h/day for 7 days/week; another group of 99 rats was sham-exposed under the same environmental conditions as the MF-exposed rats. The exposure chambers were identical for MF-exposed and sham-exposed animals. The age of the rats was 45-49 days at the onset of exposure; duration of MF or sham exposure was 27 weeks. DMBA was administered p.o. at a dose of 10 mg/rat after 1 week of MF or sham exposure. The animals were palpated once weekly from week 6 onwards to assess the development of mammary tumors. At the end of the exposure period, the animals were killed for the determination of number and volume and histological verification of mammary tumors. All of the recordings were done in a blinded fashion; i.e., the investigators were not aware which animals were MF- or sham-exposed. Mammary tumor development and growth was significantly enhanced by MF exposure, the most marked effect on tumor incidence (190% above sham control) being observed 13 weeks after DMBA administration. At the time of necropsy, i.e., 26 weeks after DMBA administration, the incidence of histologically verified mammary tumors was 50.5% in controls and 64.7% in MF-exposed rats, the difference being statistically significant. More marked intergroup differences were recorded when tumor incidence was separately evaluated for each of the six mammary complexes, the most pronounced MF effect on tumor incidence being seen in the cranial thoracic complex. The data substantiate that, at least under the experimental conditions used in our laboratory, 50-Hz, 100-microT MF exposure significantly facilitates the development and growth of mammary tumors in the DMBA rat model of breast cancer.