Two citrus flavonoids, hesperetin and naringenin, found in oranges and grapefruit, respectively, and four noncitrus flavonoids, baicalein, galangin, genistein, and quercetin, were tested singly and in one-to-one combinations for their effects on proliferation and growth of a human breast carcinoma cell line, MDA-MB-435. The concentration at which cell proliferation was inhibited by 50% (IC50), based on incorporation of [3H]thymidine, varied from 5.9 to 140 micrograms/ml for the single flavonoids, with the most potent being baicalein. IC50 values for the one-to-one combinations ranged from 4.7 micrograms/ml (quercetin + hesperetin, quercetin + naringenin) to 22.5 micrograms/ml (naringenin + hesperetin). All the flavonoids showed low cytotoxicity (> 500 micrograms/ml for 50% cell death). Naringenin is present in grapefruit mainly as its glycosylated form, naringin. These compounds, as well as grapefruit and orange juice concentrates, were tested for their ability to inhibit development of mammary tumors induced by 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA) in female Sprague-Dawley rats. Two experiments were conducted in which groups of 21 rats were fed a semipurified diet containing 5% corn oil and were given a 5-mg dose of DMBA intragastrically at approximately 50 days of age while in diestrus. One week later, individual groups were given double-strength grapefruit juice or orange juice or fed naringin or naringenin at levels comparable to that provided by the grapefruit juice; in the second experiment, the rats were fed a semipurified diet containing 20% corn oil at that time. As expected, rats fed the high-fat diet developed more tumors than rats fed the low-fat diet, but in both experiments tumor development was delayed in the groups given orange juice or fed the naringin-supplemented diet compared with the other three groups. Although tumor incidence and tumor burden (grams of tumor/rat) were somewhat variable in the different groups, rats given orange juice had a smaller tumor burden than controls, although they grew better than any of the other groups. These experiments provide evidence of anticancer properties of orange juice and indicate that citrus flavonoids are effective inhibitors of human breast cancer cell proliferation in vitro, especially when paired with quercetin, which is widely distributed in other foods.