Background: In a previous study conducted at the Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center of the European Ramazzini Foundation (CMCRC/ERF), we demonstrated for the first time that aspartame (APM) is a multipotent carcinogenic agent when various doses are administered with feed to Sprague-Dawley rats from 8 weeks of age throughout the life span.
Objective: The aim of this second study is to better quantify the carcinogenic risk of APM, beginning treatment during fetal life.
Methods: We studied groups of 70-95 male and female Sprague-Dawley rats administered APM (2,000, 400, or 0 ppm) with feed from the 12th day of fetal life until natural death.
Results: Our results show a) a significant dose-related increase of malignant tumor-bearing animals in males (p < 0.01), particularly in the group treated with 2,000 ppm APM (p < 0.01); b) a significant increase in incidence of lymphomas/leukemias in males treated with 2,000 ppm (p < 0.05) and a significant dose-related increase in incidence of lymphomas/leukemias in females (p < 0.01), particularly in the 2,000-ppm group (p < 0.01); and c) a significant dose-related increase in incidence of mammary cancer in females (p < 0.05), particularly in the 2,000-ppm group (p < 0.05).
Conclusions: The results of this carcinogenicity bioassay confirm and reinforce the first experimental demonstration of APM's multipotential carcinogenicity at a dose level close to the acceptable daily intake for humans. Furthermore, the study demonstrates that when life-span exposure to APM begins during fetal life, its carcinogenic effects are increased.
Keywords: Sprague-Dawley; artificial sweeteners; aspartame; carcinogenicity; lymphomas/leukemias; mammary cancers; prenatal exposure.