Germline mutations of the breast cancer associated gene 1 (BRCA1) predispose women to breast and ovarian cancers. BRCA1 is a large protein with multiple functional domains and interacts with numerous proteins that are involved in many important biological processes/pathways. Mounting evidence indicates that BRCA1 is involved in all phases of the cell cycle and regulates orderly events during cell cycle progression. BRCA1 deficiency, consequently causes abnormalities in the S-phase checkpoint, the G(2)/M checkpoint, the spindle checkpoint and centrosome duplication. The genetic instability caused by BRCA1 deficiency, however, also triggers cellular responses to DNA damage that blocks cell proliferation and induces apoptosis. Thus BRCA1 mutant cells cannot develop further into full-grown tumors unless this cellular defense is broken. Functional analysis of BRCA1 in cell cycle checkpoints, genome integrity, DNA damage response (DDR) and tumor evolution should benefit our understanding of the mechanisms underlying BRCA1 associated tumorigenesis, as well as the development of therapeutic approaches for this lethal disease.