MicroRNAs are important in cancer development and progression. In the present study, the clinical significance and function of microRNA-711 (miR-711) expression in breast cancer were investigated. The expression level of miR-711 was analyzed in breast cancer tissue samples using reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Cell proliferation, colony formation, apoptosis and Transwell assays were performed in breast cancer cell lines transfected with miR-711 mimics or inhibitors, or control sequence. miR-711 was found to be upregulated in 30 formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded breast cancer tissue samples compared with paired non-cancerous breast tissues (P<0.05). Furthermore, a higher miR-711 expression was demonstrated to be associated with poor overall and disease-free survival times in 161 breast cancer patients, and miR-711 was identified as an independent prognostic factor using multivariate Cox regression analysis. In vitro, overexpression of miR-711 resulted in a significant increase in proliferation, colony formation, migration and invasion of breast cancer cells. By contrast, downregulating miR-711 inhibited cell proliferation, colony formation, migration and invasion and enhanced the rate of apoptosis of breast cancer cells. To the best of our knowledge, the present study is the first to demonstrate that miR-711 is an independent prognostic factor and serves an important oncogenic function in breast cancer, suggesting that miR-711 is a potential biomarker of prognosis and a molecular therapeutic target in breast cancer.