Mammary ductal cells are the origin for 70-80% of breast cancers. Nipple aspirate fluid (NAF) contains proteins directly secreted by the ductal and lobular epithelium in non-lactating women. Proteomic approaches offer a largely unbiased way to evaluate NAF as a source of biomarkers and are sufficiently sensitive for analysis of small NAF volumes (10-50 microl). In this study, we initially evaluated a new process for obtaining NAF and discovered that this process resulted in a volume of NAF that was suitable for analysis in approximately 90% of subjects. Proteomic characterization of NAF identified 64 proteins. Although this list primarily includes abundant and moderately abundant NAF proteins, very few of these proteins have previously been reported in NAF. At least 15 of the NAF proteins identified have previously been reported to be altered in serum or tumor tissue from women with breast cancer, including cathepsin D and osteopontin. In summary, this study provides the first characterization of the NAF proteome and identifies several candidate proteins for future studies on breast cancer markers in NAF.