Some epidemiological investigations have revealed that frequent consumption of well-done cooked meats and tobacco smoking are risk factors for breast cancer in women. 2-Amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine (PhIP) is a heterocyclic aromatic amine that is formed in well-done cooked meat, and 4-aminobiphenyl (4-ABP) is an aromatic amine that arises in tobacco smoke and occurs as a contaminant in the atmosphere. Both compounds are rodent mammary carcinogens, and putative DNA adducts of PhIP and 4-ABP have been frequently detected, by immunohistochemistry (IHC) or 32P-post-labeling methods, in mammary tissue of USA women. Because of these findings, PhIP and 4-ABP have been implicated as causal agents of human breast cancer. However, the biomarker data are controversial: both IHC and 32P-post-labeling are non-selective screening methods and fail to provide confirmatory spectral data. Consequently, the identities of the lesions are equivocal. We employed a specific and sensitive liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (MS) method, to screen tumor-adjacent normal mammary tissue for DNA adducts of PhIP and 4-ABP. Only 1 of 70 biopsy samples obtained from Minneapolis, Minnesota breast cancer patients contained a PhIP-DNA adduct. The level was three adducts per 10 9 nucleotides, a level that is 100-fold lower than the mean level of PhIP adducts reported by IHC or 32P-post-labeling methods. The occurrence of 4-ABP-DNA adducts was nil in those same breast tissues. Our findings, derived from a specific mass spectrometry method, signify that PhIP and 4-ABP are not major DNA-damaging agents in mammary tissue of USA women and raise questions about the roles of these chemicals in breast cancer.