The sodium/iodide symporter mediates active iodide transport in both healthy and cancerous thyroid tissue. By exploiting this activity, radioiodide has been used for decades with considerable success in the detection and treatment of thyroid cancer. Here we show that a specialized form of the sodium/iodide symporter in the mammary gland mediates active iodide transport in healthy lactating (but not in nonlactating) mammary gland and in mammary tumors. In addition to characterizing the hormonal regulation of the mammary gland sodium/iodide symporter, we demonstrate by scintigraphy that mammary adenocarcinomas in transgenic mice bearing Ras or Neu oncogenes actively accumulate iodide by this symporter in vivo. Moreover, more than 80% of the human breast cancer samples we analyzed by immunohistochemistry expressed the symporter, compared with none of the normal (nonlactating) samples from reductive mammoplasties. These results indicate that the mammary gland sodium/iodide symporter may be an essential breast cancer marker and that radioiodide should be studied as a possible option in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.