The use of near-infrared (NIR) light to interrogate deep tissues has enormous potential for molecular-based imaging when coupled with NIR excitable dyes. More than a decade has now passed since the initial proposals for NIR optical tomography for breast cancer screening using time-dependent measurements of light propagation in the breast. Much accomplishment in the development of optical mammography has been demonstrated, most recently in the application of time-domain, frequency-domain, and continuous-wave measurements that depend on endogenous contrast owing to angiogenesis and increased hemoglobin absorbance for contrast. Although exciting and promising, the necessity of angiogenesis-mediated absorption contrast for diagnostic optical mammography minimizes the potential for using NIR techniques to assess sentinel lymph node staging, metastatic spread, and multifocality of breast disease, among other applications. In this review, we summarize the progress made in the development of optical mammography, and focus on the emerging work underway in the use of diagnostic contrast agents for the molecular-based, diagnostic imaging of breast.