We reviewed the literature regarding the effects of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) preparations enriched in specific isomers, cis9, trans11-CLA (c9, t11-CLA) or trans10, cis12-CLA (t10, c12-CLA), on tumorigenesis in vivo and growth of tumor cell lines in vitro. We also examined the potential mechanisms by which CLA isomers may alter the incidence of cancer. We found no published reports that examined the effects of purified CLA isomers on human cancer in vivo. Incidence of rat mammary tumors induced by methylnitrosourea was decreased by c9, t11-CLA in all studies and by t10, c12-CLA in just a few that included it. Those 2 isomers decreased the incidence of forestomach tumors induced by benzo (a) pyrene in mice. Both isomers reduced breast and forestomach tumorigenesis. The c9, t11-CLA isomer did not affect the development of spontaneous tumors of the intestine or mammary gland, whereas t10, c12-CLA increased development of genetically induced mammary and intestinal tumors. In vitro, t10, c12-CLA inhibited the growth of mammary, colon, colorectal, gastric, prostate, and hepatoma cell lines. These 2 CLA isomers may regulate tumor growth through different mechanisms, because they have markedly different effects on lipid metabolism and regulation of oncogenes. In addition, c9, t11-CLA inhibited the cyclooxygenase-2 pathway and t10, c12-CLA inhibited the lipooxygenase pathway. The t10, c12-CLA isomer induced the expression of apoptotic genes, whereas c9, t11-CLA did not increase apoptosis in most of the studies that assessed it. Several minor isomers including t9, t11-CLA; c11, t13-CLA; c9, c11-CLA; and t7, c11-CLA were more effective than c9, t11-CLA or t10, c12-CLA in inhibiting cell growth in vitro. Additional studies with purified isomers are needed to establish the health benefit and risk ratios of each isomer in humans.