Inherited mutations in the gene BRCA2 predispose carriers to early onset breast cancer, but such mutations account for fewer than 2% of all cases in East Anglia. It is likely that low penetrance alleles explain the greater part of inherited susceptibility to breast cancer; polymorphic variants in strongly predisposing genes, such as BRCA2, are candidates for this role. BRCA2 is thought to be involved in DNA double strand break-repair. Few mice in which Brca2 is truncated survive to birth; of those that do, most are male, smaller than their normal littermates and have high cancer incidence. Here we show that a common human polymorphism (N372H) in exon 10 of BRCA2 confers an increased risk of breast cancer: the HH homozygotes have a 1.31-fold (95% CI, 1.07-1.61) greater risk than the NN group. Moreover, in normal female controls of all ages there is a significant deficiency of homozygotes compared with that expected from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, whereas in males there is an excess of homozygotes: the HH group has an estimated fitness of 0.82 in females and 1.38 in males. Therefore, this variant of BRCA2 appears also to affect fetal survival in a sex-dependent manner.