In mouse mammary tumorigenesis, p53 mutations facilitate tumorigenesis in concert with other oncogenic alterations. Ionizing radiation enhances tumorigenesis in preneoplastic mammary outgrowth lines and induces p53-dependent apoptosis. We asked if normal p53 function modulates radiation-induced tumorigenesis in preneoplastic mammary lesions by affecting the apoptotic pathway of cell deletion. Three different hyperplastic outgrowth lines were compared. Outgrowth line D1 overexpressed wild-type p53 and responded to irradiation with enhanced tumorigenicity but no induction of apoptosis. Outgrowth line TM12 exhibited normal wild-type p53 expression and responded to irradiation with no alteration in tumorigenicity but with a marked increase in apoptosis. Outgrowth line TM2L also exhibited normal wild-type p53 expression and responded to irradiation with a marked enhancement in both tumorigenicity and apoptosis. These results indicate that the two radiation-induced responses, apoptosis and tumorigenesis, are dissociable events in the mammary gland. Furthermore, radiation-induced tumorigenicity was not abrogated by either enhanced wild-type p53 expression or a robust apoptotic response. The radiation dose of 5 Gy most likely induces multiple genetic alterations in surviving cells, including genomic instability, and this may account for the tumorigenicity. Future experiments will examine lower doses of irradiation that still induce a significant apoptotic response but significantly less genomic instability.