In this overview of results from our laboratory, we address the question of the role of estrogens during early steps of metastasis, involving cell invasion through the basement membrane and cell motility. The motility of several estrogen receptor (ER) positive breast (MCF7, T47D) and ovarian (BG-1, SKOV3, PEO4) cancer cell lines was studied using a modified Boyden chamber assay. We observed, in all cases, estradiol induced inhibition of cancer cell invasion and motility. A similar inhibitory effect of estradiol was found when the wild-type ER alpha was stably transfected in the ER-negative MDA-MB231 cells and 3Y1-Ad12 cancer cells. The mechanism of this inhibitory effect is unknown. In ovarian cancer, however, it may involve intermediary proteins such as fibulin-1, an extracellular matrix protein that strongly interacts with fibronectin and which is induced by estrogen and secreted by ovarian cancer cells. We conclude that estrogens in ER-positive breast and ovarian cancers have a dual effect, since they stimulate tumor growth but inhibit invasion and motility. This may be consistent with the good initial prognostic value of ER-positive breast cancers compared to ER negative breast cancers noted in several clinical studies.