FOXO transcription factors are key tumor suppressors in mammalian cells. Until now, suppression of FOXOs in cancer cells was thought to be mainly due to activation of multiple onco-kinases by a phosphorylation-ubiquitylation-mediated cascade. Therefore, it was speculated that inhibition of FOXO proteins would naturally occur through a multiple step post-translational process. However, whether cancer cells may downregulate FOXO protein via an alternative regulatory mechanism is unclear. In the current study, we report that expression of miR-96 was markedly upregulated in breast cancer cells and breast cancer tissues compared with normal breast epithelial cells (NBEC) and normal breast tissues. Ectopic expression of miR-96 induced the proliferation and anchorage-independent growth of breast cancer cells, while inhibition of miR-96 reduced this effect. Furthermore, upregulation of miR-96 in breast cancer cells resulted in modulation of their entry into the G1/S transitional phase, which was caused by downregulation of cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitors, p27(Kip1) and p21(Cip1), and upregulation of the cell-cycle regulator cyclin D1. Moreover, we demonstrated that miR-96 downregulated FOXO3a expression by directly targeting the FOXO3a 3'-untranslated region. Taken together, our results suggest that miR-96 may play an important role in promoting proliferation of human breast cancer cells and present a novel mechanism of miRNA-mediated direct suppression of FOXO3a expression in cancer cells.