Germline mutations in the tumor suppressor BRCA1 predispose women to breast and ovarian cancers. Current evidence demonstrates that mutations in BRCA1 do not directly result in tumor formation, but instead cause genetic instability, subjecting cells to high risks of malignant transformation. In an animal model in which Brca1 is mutated specifically in mammary epithelium, tumorigenesis occurs in mutant glands at low frequency after a long latency. Notably, introduction of a p53-null allele significantly enhanced mammary gland tumor formation in Brca1 conditional mutant mice. These results are consistent with a model that Brca1 is a caretaker gene, whose absence causes genetic instability and triggers further alterations, including inactivation of tumor suppressor genes and/or activation of oncogenes, leading to tumor formation.