Inherited predisposition occurs in 5-10% of all prostate cancer (CaP) patients, but the genes involved in conferring genetic susceptibility remain largely unknown. Several lines of evidence indicate that germline mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 might be associated with an increased risk for CaP. Three mutations in these two genes (185delAG and 5382InsC (BRCA1) and 6174delT (BRCA2) occur in about 2.5% of the general Ashkenazi population, and the 185delAG BRCA1 mutation, in up to 1% of non-Ashkenazi Jews. in order to assess the contribution of these germline mutations to prostate cancer in Jewish Israeli patients, we tested 174 unselected prostate cancer patients (95 of Ashkenazi origin) for these mutations by PCR amplification and modified restriction enzyme digests. Patient's age range was 45-81 years (median 66), and in 24 (14.4%) the disease was diagnosed prior to 55 years of age. Nineteen (11%) and 12 (6.9%) patients had a first or second degree relative with CaP or breast cancer, respectively. Overall, five mutation carriers were detected: 2/152 (1.3%) 185delAG, 2/104 (2%) 5382InsC, and 1/158 (0.6%) 6174delT. In all carriers, the disease was diagnosed after the age of 55, and only one of them had a family history of breast and CaP. In addition, no allelic losses at the BRCA1 locus were demonstrated in 17 patients with a family history of CaP, using seven microsatellite markers. We conclude that the rate of the predominant Jewish BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations in CaP patients does not significantly differ from that of the general population, and that mutational inactivation of the BRCA1 is rare in familial CaP. Thus, germline BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations probably contribute little to CaP occurrence, to inherited predisposition, and to early onset disease in Jewish individuals. (C) 2000 Cancer Research Campaign.