Dietary whey protein protects against azoxymethane-induced colon tumors in male rats

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2001 May;10(5):555-8.


Epidemiological studies have suggested a relationship between diet and colon cancer incidence. Results from animal studies suggest that whey protein, but not casein protein, may provide protective effects against experimentally induced breast cancer in animals. In the current study, we investigated the effects of casein and whey diets on chemically induced colon cancer in male rats. Pregnant female Sprague Dawley rats (days 3-4 of gestation) were maintained on modified AIN-93G diets formulated with a single protein source of either casein or whey. Life-time exposure to these diets was studied in the F1 generation (experiment A) or the F2 generation (experiment B). Male offspring were weaned to the same diets as the dams and were maintained on these diets throughout the study. At age 90 days, all rats received azoxymethane once a week for 2 weeks (s.c., 15 mg/kg). Forty weeks after the last azoxymethane injection, all rats were euthanized, the colon was examined visually for tumors, and each tumor was histologically evaluated. The weights and distribution of all of the tumors were recorded. In experiment A, rats fed the casein diet had a 56% incidence of colon tumors compared with 30% of the rats on whey-based diets (P < 0.05). In experiment B, rats fed the casein diet had 50% incidence of colon tumors compared with 29% in the whey group (P < 0.05). There were no significant effects of diet on tumor multiplicity or mass. These results suggest that consumption of whey protein-containing diets may reduce the risk of developing colon tumors.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Azoxymethane
  • Carcinogens
  • Caseins / administration & dosage*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Diet*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Male
  • Milk Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Statistics, Nonparametric


  • Carcinogens
  • Caseins
  • Milk Proteins
  • whey acidic proteins
  • Azoxymethane