Lignans are plant compounds metabolized in the gut to produce the phytoestrogens enterolactone and enterodiol. Reduced breast cancer risks associated with higher urinary lignan excretion may be related to competitive inhibition of endogenous estrogens. Evidence exists that associations with reproductive risk factors for breast cancer differ according to cytochrome P450c17alpha (CYP17) genotype. Genetic variability in estrogen metabolism could affect lignan metabolism thereby modifying risk associations. We examined breast cancer risk, dietary lignans and CYP17 genotype among 207 women with primary, incident, histologically confirmed breast cancer and 188 controls frequency matched to cases by age and county of residence. Self-reported frequency of intake of 170 foods and beverages during the 2 y before the interview and other relevant data were collected by detailed in-person interviews. Dietary lignan intake was expressed as the sum of enterolactone and enterodiol production from foods. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated by unconditional logistic regression, adjusting for age, education and other breast cancer risk factors. Women in the highest tertile of dietary lignans tended to have reduced breast cancer risk (OR 0.45, 95% CI 0.20-1.01 and OR 0.59, 95% CI 0.28-1.27, pre- and postmenopausal women, respectively). Substantially reduced risks in the highest tertile of lignans were observed for premenopausal women with at least one A2 allele (OR 0.12, 95% CI 0.03-0.50). Our results suggest that CYP17 genotype may be important in modifying the effect on breast cancer risk of exogenous estrogens, particularly for premenopausal women.