Introduction: The female sex steroids estrogen and progesterone are important in breast cancer etiology. It therefore seems plausible that variation in genes involved in metabolism of these hormones may affect breast cancer risk, and that these associations may vary depending on menopausal status and use of hormone therapy.Methods: We conducted a nested case-control study of breast cancer in the California Teachers Study cohort. We analyzed 317 tagging single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 24 hormone pathway genes in 2746 non-Hispanic white women: 1351 cases and 1395 controls. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated by fitting conditional logistic regression models using all women or subgroups of women defined by menopausal status and hormone therapy use. P values were adjusted for multiple correlated tests (PACT).Results: The strongest associations were observed for SNPs in SLCO1B1, a solute carrier organic anion transporter gene, which transports estradiol-17β-glucuronide and estrone-3-sulfate from the blood into hepatocytes. Ten of 38 tagging SNPs of SLCO1B1 showed significant associations with postmenopausal breast cancer risk; 5 SNPs (rs11045777, rs11045773, rs16923519, rs4149057, rs11045884) remained statistically significant after adjusting for multiple testing within this gene (PACT= 0.019-0.046). In postmenopausal women who were using combined estrogen-progestin therapy (EPT) at cohort enrollment, the OR of breast cancer was 2.31 (95% CI = 1.47-3.62) per minor allele of rs4149013 in SLCO1B1 (P = 0.0003; within-gene PACT= 0.002; overall PACT= 0.023). SNPs in other hormone pathway genes evaluated in this study were not associated with breast cancer risk in premenopausal or postmenopausal women.Conclusions: We found evidence that genetic variation in SLCO1B1 is associated with breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women, particularly among those using EPT. © 2011 Lee et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.