Dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) is a well-known solvent that is commonly used in the laboratory. We selected DMSO as the vehicle for an experiment designed to determine if several nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents inhibit the growth of Caov-3, OVCAR-3, and SK-OV-3 ovarian carcinoma cell lines. Using the tetrazolium conversion assay, however, we observed some variability in the number of cells present in each ovarian carcinoma cell line with varying concentrations of DMSO (10(-6)-10(-2) M) compared to medium alone. Similarly, when Caov-3, OVCAR-3, and SK-OV-3 cells were treated with 10(-4) M DMSO plus medium (Dulbecco's Modified Eagle Medium with 10% fetal bovine serum) and plated on coverslips, the total number of cells present in 60 random fields increased significantly (P < 0.0001) for each ovarian carcinoma cell line treated with DMSO compared to medium alone. Ethanol did not demonstrate such prominent effects on cellular growth. Our observations are important to consider when selecting an appropriate solvent, especially for growth inhibition studies using Caov-3, OVCAR-3, and SK-OV-3 cell lines.