A woman's breast cancer risk is affected by her reproductive history. The hormonal milieu also influences the course of the disease. The female reproductive hormones, estrogens, progesterone, and prolactin, have a major impact on breast cancer and control postnatal mammary gland development. Analysis of hormone receptor mutant mouse strains combined with tissue recombination techniques and proteomics revealed that sequential activation of hormone signaling in the mammary epithelium is required for progression of morphogenesis. Hormones impinge on a subset of luminal mammary epithelial cells (MECs) that express hormone receptors and act as sensor cells translating and amplifying systemic signals into local stimuli. Proliferation is induced by paracrine mechanisms mediated by distinct factors at different stages. Tissue and stage specificity of hormonal signaling is achieved at the molecular level by different chromatin contexts and differential recruitment of coactivators and corepressors.