Since it has been shown that pregnancy protects the mammary gland from chemically induced carcinogenesis, this study was designed with the dual purpose of determining whether treatment of young virgin rats with the placental hormone chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) mimics pregnancy-induced changes in the tumourigenic response of the mammary gland and also whether the effect induced by both pregnancy and hormonal treatments was transitory, or a more permanent one, exerting the same effect when the period of time between delivery or termination of treatment and exposure to the carcinogen is lengthened. Virgin Sprague-Dawley rats were utilised in two experimental protocols. For protocol I, 50 day-old rats were either mated (Group II), or started receiving a daily intraperitoneal injection of 100 IU hCG (Group III) at age 50. Age-matched untreated virgin rats were used as controls (Group I). Twenty-one days after either delivery or termination of treatment all the animals received an intragastric dose of 8 mg DMBA/100 gbw. For the second protocol, 50 day-old virgin rats were also mated (Group V) or were treated with hCG for 21 days (Group VI); the resting period between delivery or termination of treatment was lengthened to 63 days, at which time they received a dose of DMBA. Age-matched controls (Group IV) received DMBA only. Tumourigenesis was evaluated 24 weeks post-carcinogen administration in all the groups. Pregnancy and hCG followed by the 21-day resting period significantly depressed mammary carcinogenesis to 11% and 6% respectively, compared with 63% in control animals. When the resting period was prolonged to 63 days there was also a significant depression in adenocarcinoma incidence to 9% in pregnancy (Group IV) in which it was observed that tumour incidence was also reduced as a consequence of aging at the time of exposure to the carcinogen. These results clearly indicate that hCG is as efficient as pregnancy and significantly reduces mammary carcinogenesis, and that the protective effect of both pregnancy and hCG treatment is long-lasting and both are more efficient than aging in reducing mammary carcinogenesis.