Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) has been hypothesized to have chemopreventive effects on breast cancer, unlike high corn oil (HCO) diets that stimulate it. We have investigated mechanisms of these differential modulatory actions on experimental mammary cancer. In 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene adenocarcinomas of rats fed a high EVOO, HCO and control diets (n = 20 for each group), we have analyzed the expression and activity of ErbB receptors, p21Ras and its extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) 1/2, Akt and RalA/B effectors by immunoblotting analyses. We explored the Ha-ras1 mutation status by Southern blot, mismatch amplification mutation assay and sequencing, and the 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase and squalene synthase messenger RNA expression by real-time polymerase chain reaction. We analyzed the tumor mitotic index, proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) levels, and apoptosis through Caspase-3 analysis and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferasemediated deoxyuridine triphosphate nick end labeling assays. Finally, we measured the 8-oxo-2′-deoxyguanosine levels. Nonparametrical statistics were used. The EVOO diet decreased Ras activation, downregulated the Ras/phosphatidyl inositol 3-kinase/Akt pathway and upregulated the Raf/Erk pathway, compared with the control. In contrast, the HCO diet did not modify Ras activity but rather enhanced the Raf/Erk pathway. The EVOO diet decreased the cleaved ErbB4 levels, compared with the HCO diet, increased apoptosis and diminished the mono-ubiquitylated PCNA levels, which is related to DNA damage. Tumors from rats fed the EVOO diet displayed a more benign phenotype, whereas those from rats fed the HCO diet were biologically more aggressive. In conclusion, high EVOO and corn oil diets exert their modulatory effects on breast cancer through a different combination of Ras signaling pathways, a different proliferation-apoptosis balance and probably distinct levels of DNA damage. © The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.