Genome-wide association studies have revealed that multiple single-nucleotide polymorphisms in the intergenic region between estrogen receptor 1 and coiled-coil domain containing 170 (CCDC170) are associated with breast cancer risk. We performed microarray and bioinformatics analyses to identify genes that were induced upon CCDC170 overexpression, and confirmed our findings by evaluating paraffin-embedded breast cancer tissues and conducting cellular assays. In CCDC170-overexpressing MCF7 breast cancer cells, microarray analyses revealed that inositol-requiring enzyme 1 (IRE1) was the most elevated gene in enriched pathways. In breast cancer tissues, IRE1 expression correlated positively with CCDC170 and X-box binding protein 1 expression at both the mRNA and protein levels. In a survival analysis, patients with higher CCDC170 levels exhibited better disease-free survival. Western blotting indicated that overexpressing CCDC170 in MCF7 cells increased protein levels of IRE1α, estrogen receptor α and X-box binding protein 1, while silencing CCDC170 reduced them. CCDC170 overexpression promoted apoptosis in MCF7 cells, and this effect was more obvious under endoplasmic reticulum stress. MCF7 cells overexpressing CCDC170 were more sensitive to paclitaxel. Our study showed that higher CCDC170 expression is associated with a better prognosis in breast cancer patients and that CCDC170 may promote apoptosis through the IRE1α pathway.