Dominant inheritance is presumed in 6-10% of breast and ovarian cancers. Mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are the most commonly identified causative genes in such families. The frequency of mutation carriers with breast/ovarian cancer depends on the population studied, and display considerable variation that coincides with ethnic and geographical diversity. Mutation analyses were performed in 143 families registered at the Cancer Genetic Counseling Clinic of western Sweden. In a thorough mutation screening procedure, the entire BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes were analyzed using a combination of complementary mutation detection techniques. Mutations in either BRCA1 or BRCA2 were detected in 36% (52 out of 143) of all screened families. All families were clinically evaluated regarding age at diagnosis, type of cancer and number of cancer cases in the family. Among high-risk families, the mutation detection rate was 39% (46 out of 117). The detection rate observed among families with cases of ovarian cancer (42 out of 62, 68%), was substantially higher than in families with only breast cancer (10 out of 81, 12%). Age at ovarian cancer did not seem to have an effect on the detection rate. The analyses revealed 11 frameshift mutations, 4 nonsense mutations and 2 large deletions. Notably, the BRCA1 c.3171ins5 mutation accounted for 34 of 52 (65%) identified mutations. Seven mutations are novel: BRCA1c.409_410del; c.1912T>G; c.2228_2229del; c.3029delA; c.3433delA, a large deletion covering exons 1-3 of BRCA1and one BRCA2 mutation; BRCA2c.6287_6290del. We have shown that the founder mutation BRCA1 c.3171ins5 has a great influence on western Swedish breast/ovarian cancer families along with a high number of mutations unique for the region. In order to achieve a high mutation detection rate we suggest a combination of several detection techniques.