Background: The purpose of the present paper was to estimate the absolute risk of breast cancer over the remainder of a lifetime in Australian women with different categories of family history. Methods: Age-specific breast cancer incidence rates were adjusted for screening effects, and rates in those with no family history were estimated using the attributable fraction (AF). Relative risks from a published meta-analysis were applied to obtain incidence rates for different categories of family history, and age-specific incidence was converted to cumulative risk of breast cancer. The risk estimates were based upon Australian population statistics and published relative risks. Breast cancer incidence was from New South Wales women for 1996. The AF was calculated using prevalence of a family history of breast cancer from data on Queensland women. The cumulative absolute risk of breast cancer was calculated from decade and mid-decade ages to age 79 years, not adjusted for competing causes of death. Results: Lifetime risk is approximately 8.6% (1 in 12) for the general population and 7.8% (1 in 13) for those without a family history. Women with one relative affected have lifetime risks of 1 in 6-8 and those with two relatives affected have lifetime risks of 1 in 4-6. The cumulative residual lifetime risk decreases with advancing age; by age 60 years all groups with only one relative affected have well above a 90% probability of not developing breast cancer to age 79 years. Conclusions: These Australian risk statistics are useful for public information and in the clinical setting. Risks given here apply to women with average breast cancer risk from other risk factors.