The study is based on a retrospective analysis of data from 200 patients with hereditary retinoblastoma. Apart from four unilateral cases with a positive family history all patients had bilateral disease; 229 appeared suitable for conservative treatment while 167 eyes had to be enucleated. Primary local treatment was performed in 102 eyes, while 127 eyes received primary external beam radiation using a linear accelerator. Follow-up was adjusted by life tables, with 75% of the patients being observed longer than 2 years. Using life-table statistics new and recurrent tumors were found in 41% of all patients and in 95% of these cases they were noted within 26 months after initiation of therapy. Among eyes treated with primary external beam radiation new and recurrent tumors were observed significantly less frequently when 50 Gy (22% compared with 49% after 40 Gy) and a highly accurate beam alignment technique (22% compared with 48% after alignment to the outer bony canthus) were applied. The incidence of recurrent tumors following primary local treatment did not differ significantly with regard to the application of either photo- or cryocoagulation (28% vs 33%), while no recurrence was observed among tumors that were suitable for primary treatment using ruthenium or cobalt plaques.