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The clinical diagnosis of hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) is based on the Amsterdam II criteria (ACII). The purpose of using the Bethesda guidelines (BG) is to select tumours for microsatellite analysis. Recently, the modified Amsterdam criteria (ACmod) and Bethesda guidelines (BGmod) were proposed to simplify definitions. We evaluated the efficiency of the ACmod and BGmod to identify patients with germ-line mutations inMLH1andMSH2in 81 unrelated Austrian HNPCC families. Microsatellite (MS) analysis was performed in 55 tumours. The new criteria included more families than the old ones: BGmod,n= 81; BG,n= 72; ACmod,n= 52 and ACII,n= 35. The more stringent old criteria tended to show greater positive predictive value for association with a germ-line mutation than the corresponding new criteria: BGmod, 23%; BG, 26%; ACmod, 31% and ACII, 37%. The larger number of patients analysed in the ACmod group resulted in greater sensitivity compared to the ACII. The increased workload for BGmod was not associated with greater sensitivity. Microsatellite instability (MSI) significantly enhanced specificity in all subgroups. We recommend the use of the ACmod criteria to select patients for primary sequence analysis, when microsatellite analysis is not possible. If the BG are used, we suggest that BG be given preference over BGmod, as the former signify a lesser workload.