The effect of age at exposure on induction of mammary tumors was studied in female rats of the inbred WAG/Rij strain. Groups of 40 animals were exposed to a single total-body dose of 1 or 2 Gy of137 Cs γ radiation at ages of 8, 12, 16, 22, 36 or 64 weeks and were observed for life. Mammary tumors, identified as nodules persisting and growing for 6 weeks, were resected and classified histologically as carcinoma or fibroadenoma. The age-specific incidence of mammary carcinoma was compared with that in a group of 120 unirradiated control rats, using lifetime statistical analysis with both parametric and nonparametric methods. The excess normalized risk of carcinoma was 0.9 for 1 Gy and 2.2 for 2 Gy in age groups 8-36 weeks, with no significant differences between the age groups. However, irradiation at 64 weeks yielded fewer carcinomas than in the controls, the excess normalized risk being -0.7 and -0.3 for 1 and 2 Gy, respectively. The occurrence of one or more fibroadenomas did not influence the incidence of carcinoma. The present data agree closely with the results reported previously for rats irradiated at age 8 or 17 weeks with a dose of 1.2 Gy. The reduced risk of radiation exposure at midlife is consistent with the available epidemiological data for exposed women. Although our findings have been obtained with a single total-body dose that is several orders of magnitude higher than the multiple doses delivered to the mammary gland during mammography, it is suggested that radiological screening for mammary cancer after the age of menopause will not increase the normal incidence of breast cancer.

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