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Between 1946 and 1976 over 9,000 women with breast cancer were seen within one year of diagnosis at the A. Maxwell Evans Clinic (AMEC) in Vancouver, British Columbia. By 1978, 275 had a subsequent diagnosis of a second primary in the contralateral breast: 100 were diagnosed within 1 year, and 175 after 1 year of the first primary. Two separate comparison groups of AMEC patients with unilateral breast cancer were selected to identify risk factors for bilateral breast cancer and to determine the incidence. The average annual incidence rates for a second primary in the contralateral breast were 5.0, 4.1 and 3.0 per 1,000 women for women less than 45 years, 45-54 years, and over 55 years of age at diagnosis of first primary breast cancer, respectively. These rates remained stable for at least 15 years after the diagnosis of the first primary. Two risk factors were found for bilateral cancer within 1 year of the first primary, histologic diagnosis of lobular carcinoma and absence of pathologic involvement of axillary nodes; one risk factor was found for bilateral breast cancer after 1 year of the first primary, family history of breast cancer.