Few advances in medical science have yielded as much publicity and controversy as discoveries in genetics. Moving quickly from the bench to the bedside, genetic testing for inherited susceptibility to breast and ovarian cancer has had a significant impact on our paradigms for decisions about the treatment and prevention of disease. Assessment of cancer risk is developing into a distinct discipline, with rapidly evolving genetic technologies and models for estimating an individual's risk of cancer. Exciting developments in chemoprevention of breast cancer demonstrate the potential to offer a broader range of options for decreasing cancer risk. This article will consider recent advances in the understanding of cancer genetics, and describe the state-of-the-art in terms of management of individuals with inherited susceptibility to breast and ovarian cancer.