BACKGROUND: Many American Indian and Alaska Native women have lower incidence rates of breast carcinoma than other racial/ethnic groups in the United States. The rates in most areas, however, have increased in recent years. The author reviews the migration patterns and effects that might contribute to this change. METHODS: A review of the literature on migration and breast carcinoma incidence was conducted. RESULTS: Migration significantly impacts on breast carcinoma incidence in all groups of women studied. CONCLUSIONS: Research must be designed that will explore the components of host, life-styles, and environment on breast carcinoma rates in American Indian and Alaska Native women to elucidate mechanisms of breast carcinoma etiology.