BACKGROUND: Cancer risk assessment is an important decision-making tool for women considering irreversible risk-reducing surgery. Our objective was to determine the prevalence of BRCA testing among women undergoing bilateral prophylactic mastectomy (BPM) and to review the characteristics of women who choose BPM within a metropolitan setting. METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed records of women who underwent BPM in the absence of cancer within 2 health care systems that included 5 metropolitan hospitals. Women with invasive carcinoma or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) were excluded; neither lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) nor atypical hyperplasia (AH) were exclusion criteria. We collected demographic information and preoperative screening and risk assessment, BRCA testing, reconstruction, and associated cancer risk-reducing surgery data. We compared women who underwent BRCA testing to those not tested. RESULTS: From January 2002 to July 2009, a total of 71 BPMs were performed. Only 25 women (35.2%) had preoperative BRCA testing; 88% had a BRCA mutation. Compared with tested women, BRCA nontested women were significantly older (39.1 vs. 49.2 years, P < 0.001), had significantly more preoperative biopsies and mammograms and had fewer previous or simultaneous cancer risk-reducing surgery (oophorectomy). Among BRCA nontested women, common indications for BPM were family history of breast cancer (n = 21, 45.6%) or LCIS or AH (n = 16, 34.8%); 9 nontested women (19.6%) chose BPM based on exclusively on cancer-risk anxiety or personal preference. CONCLUSION: Most women who underwent BPM did not receive preoperative genetic testing. Further studies are needed to corroborate our findings in other geographic regions and practice settings.