Proliferation of breast and endometrial cells is under the control of ovarian steroid hormones (SHs) such as oestrogen and progesterone. They mediate diverse physiological functions via interaction with nuclear-localised steroid hormone receptors (HRs). The SH receptor complex modifies the expression of SH-regulated genes by binding to conserved binding sites in their promoter region or through cross-talk with other transcription factors. In non-malignant tissues, HRs are in balance with other factors regulating proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis. While dysfunction of the regulatory mechanisms is a part of malignant transformation, functional SH receptors can promote growth of SH-responsive tumours. Therefore, anti-hormones that block the interaction of steroid hormones with the SH receptor are useful tools for the treatment of SH-responsive carcinomas. However, a portion of ER-positive breast cancers and most endometrial cancers do not respond to anti-oestrogens and continued treatment results in hormone resistance, mostly without loss of the ER. This review focuses on the mechanisms of action of hormones and anti-hormones in breast and endometrial carcinomas.