Omega-3 fatty (n-3) acids are believed to inhibit the rate of occurrence and the growth of mammary tumors in rats treated with 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA). Linoleic acid, on the other hand, has been shown to promote mammary tumorigenesis. This study was undertaken to see whether replacing 18% of the corn oil (high in linoleic acid) in a 20% fat diet with menhaden oil (high in n-3 fatty acids, low in linoleic acid) or coconut oil (low in n-3 fatty acids, low in linoleic acid), while keeping constant the cholesterol, antioxidant, and total fat content, would affect tumor incidence in virgin female BALB/c mice dosed with DMBA. Dietary treatment had no effect on body weight, feed intake, or survival to 44 weeks of age (36 wks after the first of 6 DMBA doses). Mammary tumor incidence was the same in the menhaden oil and coconut oil diet groups but was significantly higher in the 20% corn oil diet group. The protective effect of menhaden oil and coconut oil may be due, at least in part, to the decreased linoleic acid content of these diets relative to the corn oil diet. We conclude that n-3 fatty acids per se do not seem to inhibit tumor formation.