Morphological and biochemical status of the mammary gland as influenced by conjugated linoleic acid: Implication for a reduction in mammary cancer risk

Henry Thompson, Zongjian Zhu, Sebastiano Banni, Kathleen Darcy, Tami Loftus, Clement Ip*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


Previous research showed that treatment with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) during the period of active mammary gland morphogenesis was sufficient to confer a lasting protection against subsequent mammary tumorigenesis induced by methylnitrosourea. The present study was designed to characterize certain morphological and biochemical changes of the mammary gland that might potentially render it less susceptible to cancer induction. Female Sprague Dawley rats were fed a 1% CLA diet from weaning until about 50 days of age. The mammary gland parameters under investigation included (a) the deposition of neutral lipid, (b) the identification and quantification of CLA and its metabolites, (c) the density of the epithelium, and (d) the proliferative activity of various structural components. Our results showed that CLA treatment did not affect total fat deposition in the mammary tissue nor the extent of epithelial invasion into the surrounding fat pad but was able to cause a 20% reduction in the density of the ductal-lobular tree as determined by digitized image analysis of the whole mounts. This was accompanied by a suppression of bromodeoxyuridine labeling in the terminal end buds and lobuloalveolar buds. The recovery of desaturation and elongation products of CLA in the mammary gland confirmed our prior suggestion that the metabolism of CLA might be critical to risk modulation. The significance of the above findings was investigated in a mammary carcinogenesis bioassay with the use of the dimethylbenz[a]anthracene model. When CLA was started at weaning and continued for 6 months until the end of the experiment, this schedule of supplementation produced essentially the same magnitude of mammary tumor inhibition in the dimethylbenz[a]anthracene model as that produced by 1 month of CLA feeding from weaning. The observation is consistent with the hypothesis that exposure to CLA during the time of mammary gland maturation may modify the developmental potential of a subset of target cells that are normally susceptible to carcinogen-induced transformation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5067-5072
Number of pages6
JournalCancer Research
Issue number22
StatePublished - 15 Nov 1997
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Morphological and biochemical status of the mammary gland as influenced by conjugated linoleic acid: Implication for a reduction in mammary cancer risk'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this