The Barbados National Cancer Study (BNCS) is a nationwide case-control study investigating environmental and genetic factors for breast cancer (BC) in a predominantly African-origin population with similar ancestry as African-Americans. This report evaluates associations of incident BC in the BNCS to various factors, including demographic, anthropometric, reproductive and family history variables, not investigated previously in this population. The BNCS included 241 incident BC cases and 481 age-matched female controls, with mean ages of 57 and 56 years, respectively. In addition to a reported family history of BC in a close relative [odds ratios (OR) = 3.74, 95% CI (1.41, 9.90) in a parent; OR = 3.26 (1.47, 7.21) in a sibling], other factors associated with BC were older age at first full-term pregnancy [OR = 1.04 (1.00, 1.07)] and having a history of benign breast disease [OR = 1.88 (1.19, 2.99)]. Increased parity reduced the risk of BC [OR = 0.34 (0.15, 0.77) among those with >or=3 children]. The reproductive patterns of African-Barbadian (AB) women tended to differ from those of African-American (AA) women (later age of menarche, earlier age at first pregnancy, higher frequency of lactation and infrequent use of exogenous hormones) and could help to explain their considerably lower postmenopausal incidence of BC. The relationship between reported family history and BC, combined with the associations noted for several reproductive and other variables, supports the genetic and environmental contributions to BC, which may vary in populations across the African diaspora. Further investigations of other populations may clarify these issues.