Nijmegen breakage syndrome (NBS) is a chromosomal instability disorder, clinically characterised by microcephaly, immunodeficiency, radiosensitivity and a very high predisposition to lymphoid malignancy. Recently, it was demonstrated that mutations in the NBS1 gene are responsible for NBS. Most of the NBS patients known so far are of Slav origin and carry a major founder mutation 657del5 in exon 6 of the NBS1 gene. In this study we estimated the prevalence of the 657del5 mutation in the Czech Republic, Poland and the Ukraine. We found an unexpectedly high carrier frequency of the 657del5 mutation (1/177) in the three Slav populations, a factor that may contribute to cancer frequency in those countries. In addition, we show that NBS patients are often diagnosed late and therefore receive inappropriate therapy.