Epidemiologic studies of breast and other cancers are increasingly turning toward large, multi-center designs in order to obtain adequate power to detect low-penetrance susceptibility alleles. The size of such studies often makes it necessary to distribute the genetic screening efforts to multiple sites. Careful standardization of screening methodology and quality control across sites is required for such multi-center screening designs to be efficient. In this report, we illustrate our approach to these challenges in the context of the WECARE (Women's Environment, Cancer and Radiation Epidemiology) Study, a multi-center population-based genetic epidemiologic study of women with unilateral and bilateral breast cancer. We provide optimized conditions for screening the ataxia-telangiectasia gene (ATM) for variation by denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography (DHPLC) and describe the results of two independent quality control studies at four international centers employing these conditions. Finally, we report novel mutations in the ATM gene identified both in patients with ataxia-telangiectasia and in patients with unilateral or bilateral breast cancer.