Normal mammary gland development is the result of complex interactions between a number of hormones and growth factors. Normal and malignant human mammary epithelial cells are able to synthesize and to respond to various different, locally acting growth factors and growth inhibitors. Among these, the EGF-related peptides play an important role in regulating the proliferation and differentiation of human mammary epithelial cells. EGF4 and TGF4 are able to stimulate the lobulo-alveolar development of the mammary gland in vivo as well they are involved in the pathogenesis of human breast cancer. Experimental evidence suggests that estrogen-induced proliferation of breast carcinoma cells is mediated in part by EGF-related growth factors. It has also been demonstrated that activation of certain cellular protooncogenes such as c-Ha-ras in human mammary epithelial cells results in cellular transformation and in an increased production of several EGF-related growth factors such as TGFalpha and amphiregulin. Coexpression of both EGF-related peptides and their own receptors frequently occurs in human breast carcinomas and in human breast cancer cell lines, suggesting that an autocrine pathway of uncontrolled cell growth sustains neoplastic transformation.