Homologous recombination has a dual role in eukaryotic organisms. Firstly, it is responsible for the creation of genetic variability during meiosis by directing the formation of reciprocal crossovers that result in random combinations of alleles and traits. Secondly, in mitotic cells, it maintains the integrity of the genome by promoting the faithful repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). In vertebrates, it therefore plays a key role in tumour avoidance. Mutations in the tumour suppressor protein BRCA2 are associated with predisposition to breast and ovarian cancers, and loss of BRCA2 function leads to genetic instability. BRCA2 protein interacts directly with the RAD51 recombinase and regulates recombination-mediated DSB repair, accounting for the high levels of spontaneous chromosomal aberrations seen in BRCA2-defective cells. Recent observations indicate that BRCA2 also plays a critical role in meiotic recombination, this time through direct interactions with the meiosis-specific recombinase DMC1. The interactions of BRCA2 with RAD51 and DMC1 lead us to suggest that the BRCA2 tumour suppressor is a universal regulator of recombinase actions.