The familial risk of breast cancer is investigated in a large population-based, case-control study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control. The data set is based on 4,730 histologically confirmed breast cancer cases aged 20 to 54 years and on 4,688 controls who were frequency matched to cases on the basis of both geographic region and 5-year categories of age, and it includes family histories, obtained through interviews of cases and controls, of breast cancer in mothers and sisters. Segregation analysis and goodness-of-fit tests of genetic models provide evidence for the existence of a rare autosomal dominant allele (q = .0033) leading to increased susceptibility to breast cancer. The effect of genotype on the risk of breast cancer is shown to be a function of a woman's age. Although, compared with noncarriers, carriers of the allele appear to be at greater risk at all ages, the ratio of age-specific risks is greatest at young ages and declines steadily thereafter. The proportion of cases predicted to carry the allele is highest (36%) among cases aged 20-29 years. This proportion gradually decreases to 1% among cases aged 80 years or older. The cumulative lifetime risk of breast cancer for women who carry the susceptibility allele is predicted to be high, approximately 92%, while the cumulative lifetime risk for noncarriers is estimated to be approximately 10%.