Chromosomal translocations are a primary biological response to ionizing radiation (IR) exposure, and are likely to result from the inappropriate repair of the DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) that are created. An abundance of repetitive sequences in eukaryotic genomes provides ample opportunity for such breaks to be repaired by homologous recombination (HR) between non-allelic repeats. Interestingly, in the budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae the central strand exchange protein, Rad51 that is required for DSB repair by gene conversion between unlinked repeats that conserves genomic structure also suppresses translocation formation by several HR mechanisms. In particular, Rad51 suppresses translocation formation by single-strand annealing (SSA), perhaps the most efficient mechanism for translocation formation by HR in both yeast and mammalian cells. Further, the enhanced translocation formation that emerges in the absence of Rad51 displays a distinct pattern of genetic control, suggesting that this occurs by a separate mechanism. Since hypomorphic mutations in RAD51 in mammalian cells also reduce DSB repair by conservative gene conversion and stimulate non-conservative repair by SSA, this mechanism may also operate in humans and, perhaps contribute to the genome instability that propels the development of cancer.