It is plausible that breast tissue is particularly susceptible to carcinogens, including ethanol, between menarche and the first full-term pregnancy ("first pregnancy"). There is some epidemiological evidence that intake before the first pregnancy is more closely associated with risk of breast cancer than is intake thereafter. We examined this association using lifetime alcohol consumption data from a prospective cohort study.We calculated usual alcohol intake for age periods 15-19 years and for 10-year period from age 20 to current age (in grams per day) using recalled frequency and quantity of beverage-specific consumption for 13,630 parous women who had their first pregnancy at age 20 years or later, had no cancer history and were aged 40-69 years at enrollment. Cox regression was performed to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) and their 95 % confidence intervals (CIs).A total of 651 incident invasive adenocarcinomas of the breast were diagnosed during a mean follow-up of 16.1 years. Alcohol consumption was low overall with only a few drinking ≥40 g/day. Intake before the first pregnancy was markedly lower (mean intake: 2.5 g/day; abstention: 58.8 %) than intake thereafter (mean intake: 6.0 g/day; abstention: 33.6 %). Any alcohol intake before the first pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer (HR 1.35, 95 % CI 1.10-1.66 for drinking compared with abstention), whereas any intake after the first pregnancy was not (HR 0.89, 95 % CI 0.72-1.09).Limiting alcohol intake before the first pregnancy might reduce women's risk of breast cancer.