The integration of epidemiology and molecular biology provides a new strategy to identify additional risk factors for breast cancer and to better understand the role played by traditionally recognized risk factors. The Carolina Breast Cancer Study (CBCS) is a population-based, case-control study designed to identify causes of breast cancer among Caucasian and African-American women who are residents of a 24-county area of central and eastern North Carolina. Information on established and potential breast cancer risk factors is obtained by personal interviews. Blood samples are collected from all consenting participants. Medical record documentation and paraffin-embedded tumor specimens are obtained for all breast cancer patients. DNA from tumor tissue is tested for a variety of molecular alterations characteristic of breast cancer. Germline DNA from blood lymphocytes is evaluated for presence of alleles increasing susceptibility to breast cancer. Statistical analyses evaluate gene-environment interaction by exploring the associations between environmental/behavioral factors and breast cancer in relation to specific molecular alterations (germline and tumor). Results will help identify high-risk women, clarify causal pathways, and hopefully contribute to the prevention of breast cancer.