The mechanism behind hormone dependent growth of breast cancer is presently not well understood. We show that the HES-1 protein level in the breast cancer cell lines T47D and MCF-7 is down regulated by 17beta-estradiol treatment. This regulation could be reversed by addition of the anti-estrogens 4OH tamoxifen, raloxifen and Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) 182,780. In T47D cells with inducible exogenous HES-1 expression, induced expression of HES-1 protein prevented the proliferative effect of 17beta-estradiol and subsequent up regulation of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA). An inverse correlation between the HES-1 and PCNA protein levels respectively was found in colon cancer cell lines. These findings point to a potential role of HES-1 as a tumor suppressor in epithelial cells, and as a mediator of 17beta-estradiols proliferative effect on breast cancer cells.