The degree by which optical properties of tumors are altered following introduction of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) of varying concentration and type is poorly understood, making it difficult to predict the impact of CNT inclusion on the photothermal response to laser therapies. Optical properties were measured of phantoms representative of breast tumor tissue incorporated with multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWNTs), single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs), and single-walled carbon nanohorns (SWNHs) of varying concentration (0.01-0.1 mg/ml). Tissue phantoms were made from sodium alginate (3 g/ml) incorporated with polystyrene microbeads (3 μm diam and 1 mg/ml) and talc-France powder (40 mg/ml). Absorption (μa) and reduced scattering (μs′) coefficients of phantoms containing CNTs were determined by the inverse adding-doubling algorithm for the wavelength range of 400-1300 nm. Optical properties of phantoms without CNTs were in the range of μa = 1.04-0.06 mm−1 and μs′ = 0.05-0.07 mm−1 at a wavelength of 900 nm, which corresponds with published data for human breast tumor tissue. Incorporating MWNTs, SWNTs, and SWNHs in phantoms with a concentration of 0.1 mg/ml increased (μa) by 20- to 30-fold, 5- to 6-fold, and 9- to 14-fold, respectively, for the wavelength range of 800-1100 nm with minimal change in μs′ (1.2- to 1.3-fold). Introduction of CNTs into tissue phantoms increased absorption, providing a means to enhance photothermal therapy.