Relatively little attention has been paid to the aetiology of male breast cancer and the current understanding of female breast cancer, primarily related to reproductive events, cannot be readily transferred to understanding the cancer in males. However, since male breast cancer occurs in the absence of factors related to childbearing and menstruation, its aetiology may provide special insights into the causes of breast cancer in women. We examined lifestyle risk factors for male breast cancer as part of a Canadian, multi-site, population-based, case-control study. Eighty-one newly diagnosed, histologically confirmed cases and 1905 male controls aged 42-74 were analysed using unconditional logistic regression. Increased risks were found for men with a mother or sister with breast cancer (adjusted odds ratio (OR) 3.65, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.62-8.19). Higher physical activity levels (moderate, and strenuous recreational plus occupational) were associated with a decreased risk of male breast cancer (highest quartile, adjusted OR 0.48, 95% CI 0.26-0.91). Similarly, higher risks were associated with higher weight 2 years before interview (2.19, 95% CI 1.08-4.43), maximum weight (OR 2.66) and higher body mass index (OR 1.60). Higher vegetable consumption and coffee consumption were associated with decreased risk, whereas higher beta-carotene, vitamin E and calcium supplementation were associated with statistically significant increased risk. The small number of cases and multiple comparisons preclude strong conclusions, but our study is consistent with studies suggesting obesity and family history increase risk, and physical activity decreases risk of breast cancer.