DNA copy number variations (CNVs) are a significant and ubiquitous source of inherited human genetic variation. However, the importance of CNVs to cancer susceptibility and tumor progression has not yet been explored. Li-Fraumeni syndrome (LFS) is an autosomal dominantly inherited disorder characterized by a strikingly increased risk of early-onset breast cancer, sarcomas, brain tumors and other neoplasms in individuals harboring germline TP53 mutations. Known genetic determinants of LFS do not fully explain the variable clinical phenotype in affected family members. As part of a wider study of CNVs and cancer, we conducted a genome-wide profile of germline CNVs in LFS families. Here, by examining DNA from a large healthy population and an LFS cohort using high-density oligonucleotide arrays, we show that the number of CNVs per genome is well conserved in the healthy population, but strikingly enriched in these cancer-prone individuals. We found a highly significant increase in CNVs among carriers of germline TP53 mutations with a familial cancer history. Furthermore, we identified a remarkable number of genomic regions in which known cancer-related genes coincide with CNVs, in both LFS families and healthy individuals. Germline CNVs may provide a foundation that enables the more dramatic chromosomal changes characteristic of TP53-related tumors to be established. Our results suggest that screening families predisposed to cancer for CNVs may identify individuals with an abnormally high number of these events.