Three founder mutations in the cancer-associated genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 occur frequently enough among Ashkenazi Jews to warrant consideration of genetic testing outside the setting of high-risk families with multiple cases of breast or ovarian cancer. We estimated the prevalence of these founder mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 in the general population of Ashkenazi Jews according to age at testing, personal cancer history, and family cancer history. We compared the results of anonymous genetic testing of blood samples obtained in a survey of >5,000 Jewish participants from the Washington, DC, area with personal and family cancer histories obtained from questionnaires completed by the participants. In all subgroups defined by age and cancer history, fewer mutations were found in this community sample than in clinical series studied to date. For example, 11 (10%) of 109 Jewish women who had been given a diagnosis of breast cancer in their forties carried one of the mutations. The most important predictor of mutation status was a previous diagnosis of breast or ovarian cancer. In men and in women never given a diagnosis of cancer, family history of breast cancer before age 50 years was the strongest predictor. As interest in genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 in the Jewish community broadens, community-based estimates such as these help guide those seeking and those offering such testing. Even with accurate estimates of the likelihood of carrying a mutation and the likelihood of developing cancer if a mutation is detected, the most vexing clinical problems remain.