Risk factors were examined for subgroups of breast cancer characterized by estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) status. Data from the Carolina Breast Cancer Study, a population-based, North Carolina case-control study of 862 breast cancer cases aged 20-74 years diagnosed during 1993-1996 and 790 controls frequency matched on race and age, were obtained by personal interview. ER and PR status was retrieved from medical records (80%) or was determined in the authors' laboratory (11%) but was missing for 9% of cases. The receptor status distribution was as follows: 53% ER+PR+, 11% ER+PR-, 8% ER-PR+, and 28% ER-PR-. Several hormone-related factors were associated with stronger increased risks for ER+PR+ than for ER-PR- breast cancer: the elevated odds ratios were strongest for ER+PR+ breast cancer among postmenopausal women who had an early age at menarche (odds ratio (OR) = 1.6, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.0, 2.4), nulliparity/late age at first full-term pregnancy (OR = 1.7, 95% CI: 0.9, 3.2 and OR = 1.6, 95% CI: 1.0, 2.7, respectively), or a high body mass index (OR = 1.6, 95% CI: 0.9, 3.0) and among pre-/perimenopausal women who had a high waist-hip ratio (OR = 1.9, 95% CI: 1.2, 3.1). In contrast, family history of breast or ovarian cancer and medical radiation exposure to the chest produced higher odds ratios for ER-PR- than for ER+PR+ breast cancer, especially among pre-/perimenopausal women.