Understanding the biology of the breast and how ovarian hormones impinge on it is key to rational new approaches in breast cancer prevention and therapy. Because of the success of selective oestrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), such as tamoxifen, and aromatase inhibitors in breast cancer treatment, oestrogens have long received the most attention. Early progesterone receptor (PR) antagonists, however, were dismissed because of severe side effects, but awareness is now increasing that progesterone is an important hormone in breast cancer. Oestrogen receptor-α (ERα) signalling and PR signalling have distinct roles in normal mammary gland biology in mice; both ERα and PR delegate many of their biological functions to distinct paracrine mediators. If the findings in the mouse model translate to humans, new preventive and therapeutic perspectives might open up.