Mismatch repair deficiency is a characteristic molecular finding in hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), and has been demonstrated in both colorectal cancers and benign adenomas. Endometrial and ovarian cancers are common extracolonic tumors in this syndrome; however, few studies have investigated whether genetic changes occur in histologically normal endometrial and ovarian epithelia from HNPCC family members. If early genetic changes exist, they might be used as molecular markers to detect susceptibility to endometrial and ovarian cancers. In this study, we analyzed microsatellite instability (MSI) and MLH1 and MSH2 immunohistochemical expression in 20 histologically normal epithelia (12 endometrial and 8 ovarian) and 8 cancers (4 endometrial and 4 ovarian) obtained from 20 individuals representing 7 unrelated HNPCC families. While MSI was observed in endometrial (75%) and ovarian (100%) cancers, no case was determined to exhibit MSI in histologically normal epithelia of the endometrium or ovary. Similarly, in immunohistochemical expressions for MLH1 and MSH2, histologically normal epithelia had no genetic changes predisposing to malignancy. In cancer cases, a correlation existed between the expression of MLH1 and MSH2, the presence of germline mutations in the hMLH1 and hMSH2 genes, and the presence of tumor MSI. These data suggest that MSI and MLH1 and MSH2 expression are not useful biomarkers for the early detection of endometrial and ovarian malignancy in cancer-unaffected HNPCC germline mutation carriers. Further studies of other genetic changes in normal and premalignant precursor lesions are needed.