Mutations in breast cancer susceptibility genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2 account for more than 80% of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. p53 tumor suppressor gene that controls cellular growth and differentiation is also known to be mutated in more than 50% of human cancers including breast cancer. We have carried out a study on BRCA1 and BRCA2 along with p53 gene mutations in both sporadic as well as familial breast cancer patients from India where breast cancer is fast emerging as a major cancer among premenopausal urban women. We examined 124 untreated primary breast cancer patients comprising 100 sporadic and 24 familial cases including 56 age-matched healthy controls for the presence of BRCA1, BRCA2 and the p53 gene mutations using PCR-SSCP and direct nucleotide sequencing. Certain frequently mutated exons such as 2, 5, 11, 13 and 20 of BRCA1, exons 2, 9, 11 (for 6174delT), 18 and 20 of BRCA2 and 4-9 exons of p53 gene were analyzed in sporadic breast cancer while all 22 coding exons of BRCA1 including its flanking intronic regions along with above mentioned exons of BRCA2 and p53 gene were analyzed in familial breast cancer patients. We identified six patients (25%) with BRCA1 mutation of which three were found to be of novel type one in exon 16 (4956insG) and two in exon 7 (Lys110Thr) (Ser114Pro) out of 24 familial breast cancer patients studied from two different geographic regions/populations of India. Two sisters from a single family (12.5%) out of eight families from Goa with Portuguese colonial origin showed presence of founder Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA1 mutation (185delAG) along with (IVS7 561-34T>C; IVS18 5271 + 66G > A). While from New Delhi, four (25%) of 16 breast cancer families showed BRCA1 mutations; a frame shift protein truncating (4956insG), a transition nonsense (Gln1395Stop) and two amino acid substitutions (Lys110Thr) and (Ser114Pro). Only one (4%) p53 mutation (Val97Ile) in its exon 4 along with BRCA1 mutation (4956insG) could be detected. No major sequence variation in BRCA2 gene was observed except for G203A at 5' UTR of exon 2, a common population polymorphism in two Goan patients who also showed silent nucleotide change for amino acid serine at codon 1436 of BRCA1 gene. None of the 100 sporadic breast cancer patients revealed any protein truncating or deleterious BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. Interestingly, three (3%) p53 mutations in its exon 5 were detected in sporadic breast cancer patients. Although three novel BRCA1 mutations including a founder Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA1 mutation were recorded in Indian women with familial breast cancer, the overall prevalence of BRCA gene mutations in Indian women with a family history of breast cancer appears to be low.