The effect of caloric intake on tumor growth has been recognized for over 70 years. Inhibition of tumor growth depends primarily on the extent of caloric restriction, but tumor type, animal strain, and dietary composition all exert some influence. Caloric restriction is most effective when maintained during both initiation and promotion, but if limited to one of these phases, restriction during promotion appears to be the more effective modality. The types of tumor that have been studied include spontaneous mammary and lung tumors as well as tumors induced by organ-specific carcinogens or irradiation with ultraviolet light. Numerous investigators have studied the effects of fat, and a diet low in calories but high in fat is generally significantly more effective in inhibiting carcinogenesis than is a diet high in calories but low in fat. Mice fed high fat, low calorie diets exhibited 48% fewer chemically induced skin tumors and 61% fewer tumors induced by ultraviolet irradiation than did mice fed low fat, high calorie diets. Mice fed a diet containing 2% fat exhibited a 66% incidence of skin tumors, whereas mice fed an isocaloric diet containing 61% fat showed a 78% incidence. Rats whose diet was restricted in calories by 40% exhibited no mammary tumors (coconut oil as primary dietary fat) or 75% fewer tumors (corn oil as dietary fat) compared to ad libitum-fed controls; they also exhibited 47% fewer colonic tumors. The mechanism by which caloric restriction exerts its tumor-inhibiting effects remains to be elucidated.