Homologous recombination (HR) is an important mechanism for the repair of damaged chromosomes, for preventing the demise of damaged replication forks, and for several other aspects of chromosome maintenance. As such, HR is indispensable for genome integrity, but it must be regulated to avoid deleterious events. Mutations in the tumour-suppressor protein BRCA2, which has a mediator function in HR, lead to cancer formation. DNA helicases, such as Bloom's syndrome protein (BLM), regulate HR at several levels, in attenuating unwanted HR events and in determining the outcome of HR. Defects in BLM are also associated with the cancer phenotype. The past several years have witnessed dramatic advances in our understanding of the mechanism and regulation of HR.