Carrageenans are naturally occurring sulfated polysaccharides, widely used in commercial food preparation to improve the texture of processed foods. Because of their ubiquity in the diet and their observed preneoplastic effects in intestinal cells, their impact on human mammary myoepithelial cells in tissue culture was studied. At concentrations as low as 0.00014%, λ-carrageenan was associated with disassembly of filaments with reduced immunostaining for vimentin, α-smooth muscle-specific actin, and gelsolin; increased staining for cytokeratin 14; and cell death. The absence of mammary myoepithelial cells is associated with invasive mammary malignancy; hence, the destruction of these cells in tissue culture by a low concentration of a widely used food additive suggests a dietary mechanism for mammary carcinogenesis not considered previously.
↵1 To whom requests for reprints should be addressed, at Department of Internal Medicine, College of Medicine, The University of Iowa, 200 Hawkins Drive, Iowa City, IA 52242-1081.
- Received January 6, 1997.
- Accepted May 29, 1997.
- ©1997 American Association for Cancer Research.