Eight Icelandic breast cancer kindreds were subjected to linkage analyses with respect to 28 microsatellite loci dispersed along the short arm of chromosome 3. Breast tumors derived from these kindreds were concurrently scored for allelic imbalance with ten of the markers. Linkage to most markers could be excluded on the basis of negative LOD scores and haplotype analyses, although some moderately positive LOD scores resulted. A high frequency of imbalance in the familial tumors was seen with two of the markers in comparison with results obtained from sporadic material. The highest frequency (68%) of imbalance was detected with the marker D3S1217, which is located on 3p14.2-p14.1. Imbalance at the D3S1211 locus, which is more telomeric (3p24.2-p22), was not significantly elevated in the familial tumors. We suggest that the genetic defect responsible for breast cancer susceptibility in these families either promotes instability in the 3p14.2-p14.1 region or enhances the selective advantage of such changes.