The protective effect of an early first full-term pregnancy in relation to breast cancer risk is well established, but the molecular and cell-specific changes in the human mammary gland involved remain unclear. To identify the molecular changes associated with pregnancy-induced differentiation, we analysed the global gene expression profiles of normal mammary tissues from both a parous and a nulliparous woman, using serial analysis of gene expression. This approach allowed us to identify sets of genes, known and unknown, that are differentially expressed in parous versus age-matched nulliparous mammary gland tissues. The normal mammary gland of a multiparous woman is characterized by several known differentiation markers such as casein kappa, casein beta, keratin 14, CCAAT/enhancer binding protein beta and delta and adipsin. Candidate genes involved in cytoarchitectural remodelling and growth inhibition with a potential role in pregnancy-induced protection against breast cancer were also observed. Several genes that are highly expressed in the nulliparous mammary gland and that are lost after pregnancy, encode for growth promoting, cytoskeletal and extracellular matrix proteins. One of these genes, the small breast epithelial mucin, is almost completely downregulated upon a first full-term pregnancy but is known to be expressed in more than 90% of invasive ductal carcinomas.