Worldwide, over one million women will be newly diagnosed with breast cancer in the next year. Moreover, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the USA. An accumulating body of evidence suggests that consumption of dietary mushrooms can protect against breast cancer. In this study, we tested and compared the ability of five commonly consumed or specialty mushrooms to modulate cell number balance in the cancer process using MCF-7 human breast cancer cells. Hot water extracts (80°C for 2 h) of maitake (MT, Grifola frondosa), crimini (CRIM, Agaricus bisporus), portabella (PORT, Agaricus bisporus), oyster (OYS, Pleurotus ostreatus) and white button (WB, Agaricus bisporus) mushrooms or water alone (5% v/v) were incubated for 24 h with MCF-7 cells. Cellular proliferation determined by bromodeoxyuridine incorporation was significantly (P < 0.05) reduced up to 33% by all mushrooms, with MT and OYS being the most effective. MTT (3-[4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl]-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide) reduction, an often used mitochondrion-dependent marker of proliferation, was unchanged although decreased (P > 0.05) by 15% with OYS extract. Lactate dehydrogenase release, as a marker of necrosis, was significantly increased after incubation with MT but not with other test mushrooms. Furthermore, MT extract significantly increased apoptosis, or programmed cell death, as determined by terminal deoxynucleotidyl end labeling method, whereas other test mushrooms displayed trends of ∼15%. The total numbers of cells per flask, determined by hemacytometry, were not different from control cultures. Overall, all test mushrooms significantly suppressed cellular proliferation, with MT further significantly inducing apoptosis and cytotoxicity in human breast cancer cells. This suggests that both common and specialty mushrooms may be chemoprotective against breast cancer.