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Decreases in the incidence of breast cancer have not been achieved, but there is a downward trend in age-adjusted breast cancer mortality rates in the United States. Recent epidemiologic investigations continue to refine our understanding of the role of established breast cancer risk factors, such as reproductive characteristics and body mass index, and in the process advance understanding of the etiology of breast cancer. Important strides are being made in the chemoprevention of breast cancer, but clarifying the potential contributions of factors such as diet, physical activity, and cigarette smoke to the breast cancer burden is a high priority because these lifestyle behaviors also have important implications for primary prevention. The role of both environmental and endogenous exposures in breast carcinogenesis will be more clearly elucidated by studies that account for genetic polymorphisms, some of which may lead to differential susceptibility to harmful agents.