Low-fat milk promotes the development of 7,12-dimethylbenz(A)anthracene (DMBA)-induced mammary tumors in rats

Int J Cancer. 2004 Jul 1;110(4):491-6. doi: 10.1002/ijc.20172.


Commercial cow milk contains considerable amounts of estrogens. Our study assessed the effect of commercial low-fat milk on the development of 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene (DMBA)-induced mammary tumors in rats. Eighty 6-week-old female Sprague-Dawley rats received a single oral dose of 5 mg DMBA. Twenty-four hours later, the animals were divided into 4 groups of 20 animals each and given 1 of 4 test solutions for 20 weeks as their drinking liquid: low-fat (1%) milk (M), artificial milk (A), estrone sulfate solution (0.1 microg/ml, E), or tap water (W). The artificial milk was formulated to supply essentially the same calories as the milk. The low-fat milk contained 378 pg/ml estrone sulfate. Tumor incidence, the cumulative number of tumors and the sum of tumor diameters were higher in the M and E groups than in the A or W groups. Overall, the development of mammary tumors was in the order: M = E > A = W. Whereas the plasma 17beta-estradiol concentration in the M group was the 2nd highest after the E group, the plasma level of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I) was significantly higher in the M group than in the other 3 groups. In conclusion, commercially available low-fat milk promotes the development of DMBA-induced mammary tumors in rats. The degree of the promotion is almost comparable to that of 0.1 microg/ml estrone sulfate. The high estrogen content in the milk may be responsible for the promotional effects, acting in concert with other hormones such as IGF-I.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 9,10-Dimethyl-1,2-benzanthracene
  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Eating
  • Estradiol / analysis
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Female
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / analysis
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / etiology*
  • Milk / adverse effects*
  • Milk / chemistry
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Estradiol
  • 9,10-Dimethyl-1,2-benzanthracene
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I