Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is mainly derived from dairy products, has been shown both in vitro and in animal models to have strong anti-tumor activity. Particular effects were observed on the growth and metastatic spread of transplantable mammary tumors. In this study, we examined the effect of dietary CLA on the growth of human breast adenocarcinoma cells in severe combined immunodeficient (SCID) mice. Mice were fed 1% CLA for two weeks prior to subcutaneous inoculation of 10(7) MDA-MB468 cells and throughout the study. Dietary CLA inhibited local tumor growth by 73% and 30% at 9 and 14 weeks post-inoculation, respectively. Moreover, CLA completely abrogated the spread of breast cancer cells to lungs, peripheral blood, and bone marrow. These results indicate the ability of dietary CLA to block both the local growth and systemic spread of human breast cancer via mechanisms independent of the host immune system.