Human cells can process DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) by either homology directed or non-homologous repair pathways. Defects in components of DSB repair pathways are associated with a predisposition to cancer. The products of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which normally confer protection against breast cancer, are involved in homology-directed DSB repair. Defects in another homology-directed pathway, single-strand annealing, are associated with genome instability and cancer predisposition in the Nijmegen breakage syndrome and a radiation-sensitive ataxia-telangiectasia-like syndrome. Many DSB repair proteins also participate in the signaling pathways which underlie the cell's response to DSBs.