Mammography screening of women aged 50-70 years for breast cancer has proven to be effective in reducing breast cancer mortality. There is no consensus about the value of breast cancer screening in women aged 40-49 years. Five to ten per cent of all breast cancers are hereditary. One of the options to reduce the risk of breast cancer mortality for women with a familial or genetic predisposition is intensive surveillance. However, the effectiveness of mammography screening for breast cancer in these women, who are mainly younger than 50 years, is unproven. MRI might increase the effectiveness of screening in women with a familial or genetic predisposition. This paper describes the design of the Dutch national study for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) screening in women with a familial or genetic predisposition. The aims of this study are to investigate: the value of regular surveillance in women with a familial or genetic predisposition for breast cancer, the efficacy of MRI as compared to mammography, cost-effectiveness of regular screening and quality of life during surveillance. Included are women with a lifetime risk of familial breast cancer of 15% or more or BRCA1/2 mutation carriers, who visit one of the Dutch family cancer clinics. The aim is to include 2,500 women. The study started on 1 November 1999. On 1 January 2002, more than 1,700 women, including 210 proven carriers of a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, were included in the study.