Many missense variants identified in BRCA1 and BRCA2, two genes responsible for the majority of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, are of unclear clinical significance. Characterizing the significance of such variants is important for medical management of patients in whom they are identified. The aim of this study was to characterize eight of the most common reported missense mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 occurring in patients tested for hereditary risk of breast and ovarian cancers. The prevalence of each variant in a control population, co-segregation of the variant with cancer within families, location of the variant within the gene, the nature of the amino acid substitution and conservation of the wild-type amino acid among species were considered. In a control population, the BRCA1 variants M1652I, R1347G, and S1512I, were each observed at a frequency of 4.08%, 2.04%, and 2.04%, respectively, and the BRCA2 variants A2951T, V2728I, and D1420Y, were seen at 1.02%, 0.68%, and 0.34%, respectively. Although the BRCA2 variants T598A and R2034C were not seen in this group of controls, other clinical and published observations indicate that these variants are not deleterious. Based on epidemiological and biological criteria, we therefore conclude that the BRCA1 missense mutations R1347G, S1512I and M1652I, and the BRCA2 missense mutations T598A, D1420Y, R2034C, V2728I, and A2951T, are not deleterious mutations.