To support a study of genetic risk factors for breast cancer, the North Carolina Central Cancer Registry has implemented a rapid reporting procedure for hospitals in the study area. This system permits the identification of newly diagnosed breast cancer cases within a very short time period (less than one month). The procedures are straightforward, cost-effective, and greatly benefit the objectives of tissue collection and interviews with the cases. This article describes the rapid reporting procedures and their potential impact for population-based research. For the objective of making generalizable risk statements, the necessity of population-based research is stressed; participation with central cancer registries is endorsed for this and other molecular epidemiologic applications.