In 517 Dutch families at a family cancer clinic, we screened for BRCA1/2 alterations using the Protein Truncation Test (PTT) covering approximately 60% of the coding sequences of both genes and direct testing for a number of previously identified Dutch recurrent mutations. In 119 (23%) of the 517 families, we detected a mutation in BRCA1 (n=98; 19%) or BRCA2 (n=21; 4%). BRCA1/2 mutations were found in 72 (52%) of 138 families with breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC), in 43 (13%) of the 339 families with breast cancer only (HBC), in 4 (36%) of 11 families with ovarian cancer only (HOC), and in nine of 29 families with one single young case (<40 years) of breast cancer. Between the different subgroups of families (subdivided by the number of patients, cancer phenotype and age of onset) the proportion of BRCA1/2 mutations detected, varied between 6 and 82%. Eight different mutations, each encountered in at least six distinct families, represented as much as 61% (73/119 families) of all mutations found. The original birthplaces of the ancestors of carriers of these eight recurrent mutations were traced. To estimate the relative contribution of two important regional recurrent mutations (BRCA1 founder mutation IVS12-1643del3835 and BRCA2 founder mutation 5579insA) to the overall occurrence of breast cancer, we performed a population-based study in two specific small regions. The two region-specific BRCA1 and BRCA2 founder mutations were detected in 2.8% (3/106) and 3.2% (3/93) of the unselected breast tumours, respectively. Of tumours diagnosed before the age of 50 years, 6.9% (3/43) and 6.6% (2/30) carried the region-specific founder mutation. Thus, large regional differences exist in the prevalence of certain specific BRCA1/BRCA2 founder mutations, even in very small areas concerning populations of approximately 200000 inhabitants.