Mortality from cancer and other causes in first-degree relatives of women with ovarian cancer diagnosed before age 60 has been examined in a large population-based cohort study in England and Wales. Relatives of 1,188 ovarian-cancer cases diagnosed between 1954 and 1981 were identified through a register of households established in 1939. Some 4,111 first-degree relatives living in the same household and having the same surname as the index case were followed up through national records until the end of 1992. Over this period, 1,950 deaths (including 574 cancer deaths) occurred in the relatives. Mortality rates within the cohort were compared with age-, sex- and period-adjusted mortality rates for England and Wales. Mortality from ovarian cancer in first-degree relatives was significantly raised (SMR 223, 95% CI 155-310) although the excess was smaller than that found in case-control studies. The SMR increased with decreasing age of the relative, though not with decreasing age of the index case. After allowing for age, sisters of cases had higher ovarian-cancer mortality than mothers (sister:mother SMR ratio 1.89, p = 0.06). The SMR was greater in individuals having 2 first-degree relatives with ovarian cancer (4 deaths versus 0.17 expected, SMR 242). Relatives of ovarian cancer cases also had significantly increased mortality from cancers of the stomach (SMR 146, 69 deaths) and rectum (SMR 150, 33 deaths), and increased mortality from colon cancer, breast cancer and pancreatic cancer which failed to reach statistical significance. Individuals having a relative with colorectal cancer and a relative with ovarian cancer showed a high mortality from both cancers (11 colorectal-cancer deaths versus 1.23 expected, 4 ovarian-cancer deaths versus 0.66 expected). © 1996 Wiley-Liss, Inc.