Near-infrared imaging can be used in humans to characterize changes in breast tumor tissue by imaging total hemoglobin and water concentrations as well as oxygen saturation. In order to improve our understanding of these changes, we need to carefully quantify the range of variation possible in normal tissues for these parameters. In this study, the effect of the subject"s menstrual cycle was examined by imaging their breast at the follicular (7-14 days of the cycle) and secretory phases (21-28 days of the cycle), using our NIR tomographic system. In this system, a three layer patient interface is used to measure 3 planes along the breast from chest wall towards the nipple at 1cm increments. Seven volunteers in their 40s were observed for 2 menstrual cycles and all of these volunteers recently had normal mammograms (ACR 1) with heterogeneously dense breast composition. The results show that average total hemoglobin in the breast increased in many subjects between 0 to 15% from the follicular phase to secretory phase. Oxygen saturation and water concentration changes between these 2 parts of the cycle were between −6.5% to 12% for saturation and between −33% to 28% for water concentration. While the data averaged between subjects showed no significant change existed between phases, it was clear that individual subjects did exhibit changes in composition which were consistent from cycle to cycle. Understanding what leads to this heterogeneity between subjects will be an important factor in utilizing these measurements in clinical practice.© (2003) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.