Tumor cells can evade chemotherapy by acquiring resistance to apoptosis. We investigated the molecular mechanism whereby malignant and nonmalignant mammary epithelial cells become insensitive to apoptosis. We show that regardless of growth status, formation of polarized, three-dimensional structures driven by basement membrane confers protection to apoptosis in both nonmalignant and malignant mammary epithelial cells. By contrast, irrespective of their malignant status, nonpolarized structures are sensitive to induction of apoptosis. Resistance to apoptosis requires ligation of beta4 integrins, which regulates tissue polarity, hemidesmosome formation, and NFkappaB activation. Expression of beta4 integrin that lacks the hemidesmosome targeting domain interferes with tissue polarity and NFkappaB activation and permits apoptosis. These results indicate that integrin-induced polarity may drive tumor cell resistance to apoptosis-inducing agents via effects on NFkappaB.