Homologous recombination (HR) is essential for the accurate repair of DNA double-strand breaks and damaged replication forks. However, inappropriate or aberrant HR can also result in genome rearrangements. The maintenance of cell viability is, therefore, a careful balancing act between the benefits of HR (the error-free repair of DNA strand breaks) and the potential detrimental outcomes of HR (chromosomal rearrangements). Two papers have recently provided a mechanistic insight into how HR may be tempered by RecQ helicases to prevent genome instability and diseases that are a consequence of this, such as cancer.1,2 BioEssays 30:291–295, 2008. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.