We investigate the familial risks of cancers of the breast and ovary, using data pooled from three population-based case-control studies of ovarian cancer that were conducted in the United States. We base estimates of the frequency of mutations of BRCA1 (and possibly other genes) on the reported occurrence of breast cancer and ovarian cancer in the mothers and sisters of 922 women with incident ovarian cancer (cases) and in 922 women with no history of ovarian cancer (controls). Segregation analysis and goodness-of-fit testing of genetic models suggest that rare mutations (frequency .0014; 95% confidence interval .0002-.011) account for all the observed aggregation of breast cancer and ovarian cancer in these families. The estimated risk of breast cancer by age 80 years is 73.5% in mutation carriers and 6.8% in noncarriers. The corresponding estimates for ovarian cancer are 27.8% in carriers and 1.8% in noncarriers. For cancer risk in carriers, these estimates are lower than those obtained from families selected for high cancer prevalence. The estimated proportion of all U.S. cancer diagnoses, by age 80 years, that are due to germ-line BRCA1 mutations is 3.0% for breast cancer and 4.4% for ovarian cancer. Aggregation of breast cancer and ovarian cancer was less evident in the families of 169 cases with borderline ovarian cancers than in the families of cases with invasive cancers. Familial aggregation did not differ by the ethnicity of the probands, although the number of non-White and Hispanic cases (N = 99) was sparse.