Alternative procedures have been proposed for the detection of early ovarian cancer in asymptomatic women. Transvaginal ultrasonography, with or without colour Doppler imaging and intra-tumoural blood flow analysis, is used as the definitive technique in all current screening programmes. Target populations for clinical trials are recruited on the basis of risk factors for the disease (e.g. age or postmenopausal status, family history of ovarian cancer). Whether or not a participant is scanned may depend on results from the immunoassay of tumour antigens in peripheral serum, or from pedigree analysis. New developments include the use of: (i) intra-tumoural blood velocity as an end-point of colour Doppler imaging, (ii) serial measurements of serum tumour antigens to identify women for ultrasonography, and (iii) tests which detect regionally clustered germ-line BRCA1 mutations. More research is required to assess the beneficial and adverse effects of the new strategies.