To establish the contribution of germline BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations to familial ovarian cancer, we have analyzed both genes in DNA samples obtained from an affected individual in each of 112 families containing at least two cases of epithelial ovarian cancer. Germline mutations were found in 43% of the families; BRCA1 mutations were approximately four times more common than BRCA2 mutations. The extent of family history of ovarian and breast cancers was strongly predictive of BRCA1-mutation status. Segregation analysis suggests that a combination of chance clustering of sporadic cases and insensitivity of mutation detection may account for the remaining families; however, the contribution of other genes cannot be excluded. We discuss the implications for genetic testing and clinical management of familial ovarian cancer arising from the data presented in these studies.