Chronic inflammation is frequently associated with malignant growth and is thought to promote and enhance tumor progression, although the mechanisms which regulate this relationship remain elusive. We reported previously that interleukin (IL)-1beta promoted tumor progression by enhancing the accumulation of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC), and hypothesized that inflammation leads to cancer through the production of MDSC which inhibit tumor immunity. If inflammation-induced MDSC promote tumor progression by blocking antitumor immunity, then a reduction in inflammation should reduce MDSC levels and delay tumor progression, whereas an increase in inflammation should increase MDSC levels and hasten tumor progression. We have tested this hypothesis using the 4T1 mammary carcinoma and IL-1 receptor (IL-1R)-deficient mice which have a reduced potential for inflammation, and IL-1R antagonist-deficient mice, which have an increased potential for inflammation. Consistent with our hypothesis, IL-1R-deficient mice have a delayed accumulation of MDSC and reduced primary and metastatic tumor progression. Accumulation of MDSC and tumor progression are partially restored by IL-6, indicating that IL-6 is a downstream mediator of the IL-1beta-induced expansion of MDSC. In contrast, excessive inflammation in IL-1R antagonist-deficient mice promotes the accumulation of MDSC and produces MDSC with enhanced suppressive activity. These results show that immune suppression by MDSC and tumor growth are regulated by the inflammatory milieu and support the hypothesis that the induction of suppressor cells which down-regulate tumor immunity is one of the mechanisms linking inflammation and cancer.