The mammary epithelium undergoes cyclical periods of cellular proliferation, differentiation and regression. These processes are under the control of the hormones secreted during pregnancy, lactation and involution. Signaling pathways have been identified that connect the hormonal stimuli with the transcription of genes responsible for the determination of the cellular fate. The kinetics of induction and deinduction have suggested that cytokine-activated Stat proteins play a crucial role. Stat5 is strongly activated towards the end of pregnancy, persists in an activated state during pregnancy and is rapidly inactivated after cessation of suckling. Stat3 activation is hardly detectable during lactation, but is strongly induced at the onset of involution. The phenotypes of mice in which these genes have been inactivated through homologous recombination corroborate some of the functional assignments deducted from the activation pattern. Stat3 activation seems to be a driving force in the induction of apoptosis early in the involution period.