Li-Fraumeni syndrome is manifested in a variety of neoplasms that are transmitted in a dominantly inherited pattern. The noncancerous skin fibroblasts of family members exhibit a unique characteristic of being resistant to the killing effect of ionizing radiation. A three- to eightfold elevation in expression of c-myc and an apparent activation of c-raf-1 gene have been observed in these noncancerous skin fibroblasts. These results may provide insight into the heritable defect underlying the familial predisposition to a variety of cancers.