Frequency-domain photon migration (FDPM) is a non-invasive optical technique that utilizes intensity-modulated, near-infrared (NIR) light to quantitatively measure optical properties in thick tissues. Optical properties (absorption, mu(a), and scattering, mu(s)', parameters) derived from FDPM measurements can be used to construct low-resolution (0.5 to 1 cm) functional images of tissue hemoglobin (total, oxy-, and deoxy-forms), oxygen saturation, blood volume fraction, water content, fat content and cellular structure. Unlike conventional NIR transillumination, FDPM enables quantitative analysis of tissue absorption and scattering parameters in a single non-invasive measurement. The unique functional information provided by FDPM makes it well-suited to characterizing tumors in thick tissues. In order to test the sensitivity of FDPM for cancer diagnosis, we have initiated clinical studies to quantitatively determine normal and malignant breast tissue optical and physiological properties in human subjects. Measurements are performed using a non-invasive, multi-wavelength, diode-laser FDPM device optimized for clinical studies. Results show that ductal carcinomas (invasive and in situ) and benign fibroadenomas exhibit 1.25 to 3-fold higher absorption than normal breast tissue. Within this group, absorption is greatest for measurements obtained from sites of invasive cancer. Optical scattering is approximately 20% greater in pre-menopausal versus post-menopausal subjects due to differences in gland/cell proliferation and collagen/fat content. Spatial variations in tissue scattering reveal the loss of differentiation associated with breast disease progression. Overall, the metabolic demands of hormonal stimulation and tumor growth are detectable using photon migration techniques. Measurements provide quantitative optical property values that reflect changes in tissue perfusion, oxygen consumption, and cell/matrix development.