There is strong evidence that overtly inactivating mutations in RAD51C predispose to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer but the prevalence of such mutations, and whether they are associated with a particular clinical phenotype, remains unclear. Resolving these questions has important implications for the implementation of RAD51C into routine clinical genetic testing. Consequently, we have performed a large RAD51C mutation screen of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer families, and the first study of unselected patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Our data confirm a consistent but low frequency (2/335 families) of inactivating RAD51C mutations among families with a history of both breast and ovarian cancer and an absence of mutations among breast cancer only families (0/1,053 families). Our data also provide support for the designation of the missense variant p.Gly264Ser as a moderate penetrance allele. Hum Mutat 33:95–99, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.