Long-term feeding of sodium saccharin to nonhuman primates: implications for urinary tract cancer

J Natl Cancer Inst. 1998 Jan 7;90(1):19-25. doi: 10.1093/jnci/90.1.19.


Background: It was observed in the early 1970s that saccharin produced bladder cancer in rats. However, it has been unclear whether sodium saccharin when consumed by humans poses a substantial carcinogenic hazard. Numerous epidemiologic studies have not shown any evidence of increased urothelial proliferation associated with ingestion of sodium saccharin.

Purpose: Our purpose was to determine the effects of long-term feeding of sodium saccharin to three species of nonhuman primates.

Methods: Twenty monkeys of three species (six African green, seven rhesus, six cynomolgus, and one hybrid [of rhesus male and cynomolgus female parentage]) were treated with sodium saccharin (25 mg in the diet/kg body weight daily for 5 days a week) beginning within 24 hours after birth and continuing for up to 24 years. Sixteen monkeys (seven rhesus and nine cynomolgus) served as controls. During their last 2 years of life, urine was collected from selected treated and control animals and evaluated for various urinary chemistries and for the presence of calculi, microcrystalluria, and precipitate. Urinary bladders were examined by light microscopy and by scanning electron microscopy.

Results: Sodium saccharin treatment had no effect on the urine or urothelium in any of these monkeys. There was no evidence of increased urothelial cell proliferation, and there was no evidence of formation of solid material in the urine.

Conclusion: Although the dose of sodium saccharin administered to these monkeys was only five to 10 times the allowable daily intake for humans, the results provide additional evidence that sodium saccharin is without a carcinogenic effect on the primate urinary tract.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogens / administration & dosage
  • Carcinogens / toxicity*
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Female
  • Haplorhini
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Saccharin / administration & dosage
  • Saccharin / toxicity*
  • Ultrasonography
  • Urinary Bladder / diagnostic imaging
  • Urinary Bladder / drug effects*
  • Urine / chemistry*
  • Urothelium / drug effects*


  • Carcinogens
  • Saccharin