Epidemiological studies using the histological classification of Page for benign breast disease consistently demonstrate a positive association between atypical hyperplasia and the subsequent development of breast cancer. However, atypical hyperplasia is of either lobular or ductal types, and breast cancer risk in relation to type of atypical hyperplasia has not been studied extensively. Thus, we investigated prospectively the risk of breast cancer associated with histological subtypes of benign proliferative breast disease, including the types of atypical hyperplasia, among participants in the Nurses' Health Study who had biopsy-confirmed benign breast disease. Women who subsequently developed breast cancer were matched by year of birth and year of biopsy to participants who were free from breast cancer. Benign biopsy slides were classified according to the criteria of Page. Odds ratios (ORs) of breast cancer and 95% confidence intervals (CIs), adjusted for the matching variables and other breast cancer risk factors, were computed using unconditional logistic regression with benign nonproliferative breast disease as the referent group. Atypical ductal hyperplasia (OR = 2.4; 95% CI, 1.3-4.5) or atypical lobular hyperplasia (OR = 5.3; 95% CI, 2.7-10.4) in a prior biopsy were associated with increased breast cancer risk. Atypical lobular hyperplasia was more strongly associated with the risk of premenopausal breast cancer (OR = 9.6; 95% CI, 3.3-27.8) than with the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer (OR = 3.7; 95% CI, 1.3-10.2). The association of atypical ductal hyperplasia and breast cancer risk varied little by menopausal status. The magnitude of breast cancer risk seems to vary according to the type of atypical hyperplasia present at biopsy.