In order to determine if prior use of exogenous estrogens was related to the estrogen receptor (ER) content of primary breast cancers, a retrospective analysis was performed from 536 patients with invasive breast cancer. The patient's age, menopausal status, oral contraceptive or estrogen replacement therapy usage, and the ER and progesterone receptor (PR) content of the breast cancer were recorded for all patients. Hormone usage in premenopausal and postmenopausal patients was compared to ER and PR levels in primary breast cancers using non-parametric testing. Complete information was available from 508 (193 premenopausal and 315 postmenopausal) patients. Breast cancers were ER positive in 72% of postmenopausal patients and 57% of premenopausal patients. The majority of patients received 'Some' form of hormone therapy (111 of 193 premenopausal patients and 233 of 315 postmenopausal patients). Significantly more estrogen receptors were detected in tumors from patients receiving 'some' estrogen therapy compared to 'never' users. Postmenopausal patients 'never receiving estrogen therapy had a lower rate of ER positive tumors (62%) compared to 'some' users (75%, chi2 = 4.99, p < 0.05). The same relationship was seen for PR ('never' users 44% positive, 'some' users 58% positive, chi2 = 5.19, p < 0.05). We conclude that postmenopausal patients who received 'some' estrogen therapy are more likely to have breast cancers that are estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor positive.