Chemicals causing mammary gland tumors in animals signal new directions for epidemiology, chemicals testing, and risk assessment for breast cancer prevention

Cancer. 2007 Jun 15;109(12 Suppl):2635-66. doi: 10.1002/cncr.22653.


Identifying chemical carcinogens in animal studies is currently the primary means of anticipating cancer effects in humans. Animal studies to evaluate potential chemical carcinogenicity are particularly important for breast cancer because environmental and occupational epidemiologic research is sparse. Chemicals that increased mammary gland tumors in animal studies were compiled from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP), and other sources. Summary assessments of the carcinogenic potential for each chemical and potentially exposed populations were also compiled. In all, 216 chemicals were identified that have been associated with increases in mammary gland tumors in at least 1 study. These include industrial chemicals, chlorinated solvents, products of combustion, pesticides, dyes, radiation, drinking water disinfection byproducts, pharmaceuticals and hormones, natural products, and research chemicals. Twenty-nine are produced in the U.S. at >1 million pounds/year; 35 are air pollutants, 25 have involved occupational exposures to >5000 women, and 73 have been present in consumer products or as contaminants of food. Thus, exposure is widespread. Nearly all of the chemicals were mutagenic and most caused tumors in multiple organs and species; these characteristics are generally believed to indicate likely carcinogenicity in humans. To our knowledge, this is the most comprehensive list developed of animal mammary gland carcinogens and, along with associated data, is publicly available at URL: and at URL: Valuable information from cancer bioassays is not well utilized in risk assessment and regulatory processes, suggesting a need to strengthen chemicals testing and risk assessment as tools for breast cancer prevention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental
  • Risk Assessment
  • Toxicity Tests


  • Environmental Pollutants