The diagnosis of medullary thyroid carcinoma by biochemical and genetic testing is possible in families with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2. At an early stage total thyroidectomy usually cures the patient. As the clinical penetrance of the autosomal dominant, transmitted, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 gene is not complete, family screening is indicated for every new patient who presents with apparently sporadic medullary thyroid carcinoma. Problems related to a screening programme and early diagnosis have led the members of the European Community Concerted Action: Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma group to formulate a consensus on biochemical and genetic screening. For biochemical screening, measurement of basal and pentagastrin and/or calcium stimulated serum levels of calcitonin by radioimmunoassay are essential starting at the age of three and continuing annually until 35 years of age. Furthermore, annual screening for pheochromocytoma by measuring the urinary excretion of catecholamines and for hyperparathyroidism by serum calcium determination is indicated. Genetic screening using linked markers can be done with a 95% accuracy in informative families when DNA is available from at least two family members proven to be affected. Biochemical screening can thus be reserved for gene carriers, while those at low risk can be reassured. Combined biochemical and genetic screening for multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 is important and effective for the cure of medullary thyroid carcinoma.