Sporadic basal-like cancers (BLC) are a distinct class of human breast cancers that are phenotypically similar to BRCA1-associated cancers. Like BRCA1-deficient tumors, most BLC lack markers of a normal inactive X chromosome (Xi). Duplication of the active X chromosome and loss of Xi characterized almost half of BLC cases tested. Others contained biparental but nonheterochromatinized X chromosomes or gains of X chromosomal DNA. These abnormalities did not lead to a global increase in X chromosome transcription but were associated with overexpression of a small subset of X chromosomal genes. Other, equally aneuploid, but non-BLC rarely displayed these X chromosome abnormalities. These results suggest that X chromosome abnormalities contribute to the pathogenesis of BLC, both inherited and sporadic.