Diindolylmethane (DIM) is formed by acid catalyzed dimerization of the phytochemical indole-3-carbinol, and both compounds inhibit formation and/or growth of mammary tumors in rodents. In this study, we have investigated the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) agonist activity and inhibitory AhR-estrogen receptor crosstalk induced by the following methyl-substituted DIMs: 1,1'-dimethyl-, 2,2'-dimethyl-, 5,5'-dimethyl-, 6,6'-dimethyl-, and 7,7'-dimethylDIM and 1,1',2,2'-tetramethylDIM. The six compounds bound to the rat cytosolic AhR in a transformation assay but, at concentrations < or = 10 microM, exhibited minimal to non-detectable AhR agonist or antagonist activities associated with CYP1A1 induction. In contrast, the methyl-substituted DIMs inhibited estrogen-induced T47D human breast cancer cell growth and the four most active compounds (1,1'-, 2,2'-, 5,5'-dimethylDIM and 1,1',2,2'-tetramethylDIM) inhibited one or more estrogen-induced responses in the 21-day-old female B6C3F1 mice at a dose of 100 mg/kg/day (X3). Induction of hepatic CYP1A1-dependent activity was not observed at this high dose. The antitumorigenic activity of these compounds was examined in 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene-induced rat mammary tumor model in which the DIM analogs were orally administered (by gavage in corn oil) at a dose of 1 mg/kg/day (X10). 1,1'-DimethylDIM, 5,5'-dimethylDIM and 1,1',2,2'-tetramethylDIM significantly inhibited mammary tumor growth, and this was not accompanied by changes in organ/body weights or histopathology. These studies demonstrate that methyl-substituted DIMs are selective AhR modulators (SAhRMs) with potential for clinical treatment of breast cancer.