We have previously reported on life span shortening as well as increased incidence rates in several neoplasms in B6C3F1 mice that were continuously exposed to 21 mGy/day of gamma rays for 400 days. To clarify whether the life shortening was due to early appearance of neoplasms (shortened latency) or increased promotion/progression, 8-week-old female specific-pathogen-free B6C3F1 mice were gamma-ray irradiated at a low dose rate of 20 mGy/day for 400 days. At 100 days postirradiation, 60–90 mice were sacrificed, and thereafter every 100 days alongside the age-matched nonirradiated controls, for 700 days. Additional groups were allowed to live out their natural life span. Pathological examination was performed on all mice to identify lesions, non-neoplastic and neoplastic, as well as to determine the cause of death. Body weights were significantly increased in irradiated mice from sacrifice days 200–500. Incidence rates for spontaneously occurring non-neoplastic lesions, such as adrenal subcapsular cell hyperplasia, fatty degeneration of the liver, atrophy and tubulostromal hyperplasia of the ovaries, were significantly increased in irradiated mice. Significantly increased incidence rates with no shortening of latency periods were observed in irradiated mice for malignant lymphomas, hepatocellular adenomas/carcinomas, bronchioloalveolar adenomas, harderian gland adenoma/adenocarcinoma. Shortened latencies with significantly increased incidence rates were observed for adrenal subcapsular cell adenomas and ovarian neoplasms (tubulostromal adenoma, granulosa cell tumors) in irradiated mice. Life span shortening in mice exposed to 20 mGy/day was mostly due to malignant lymphomas. Multiple primary neoplasms were significantly increased in mice exposed to 20 mGy/day from sacrifice days 400–700 and in the life span group. Our results confirm that continuous low-dose-rate gamma-ray irradiation of female B6C3F1 mice causes both cancer induction (shortened latency) and promotion/progression (early death), depending on the neoplasm's organ/tissue of origin.

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