The development of sensitive, rapid, and accurate methods and apparatus for high-throughput short tandem repeat (STR) analysis will be critical for the use of microsatellite alteration in cancer screening. Here we show that STR-based bladder cancer diagnosis can be performed using capillary array electrophoresis and two-color labeling with energy-transfer (ET) fluorescent primers. Rapid (< or = 35 min) separations are achieved on capillary arrays using replaceable separation matrices and the allelic ratios are quantitatively determined with a precision of +/- 10%. With this precision, a variation of 20% was considered diagnostically significant. These methods provide a significant improvement in the speed, ease, and precision of STR analyses compared to slab gel electrophoresis.