Recent studies have revealed a new type of variation in the human genome encompassing relatively large genomic segments ( approximately 100 kb-2.5 Mb), commonly referred to as copy number variation (CNV). The full nature and extent of CNV and its frequency in different ethnic populations is still largely unknown. In this study we surveyed a set of 12 CNVs previously detected by array-CGH. More than 300 individuals from five different ethnic populations, including three distinct European, one Asian and one African population, were tested for the occurrence of CNV using multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA). Seven of these loci indeed showed CNV, i.e., showed copy numbers that deviated from the population median. More precise estimations of the actual genomic copy numbers for (part of) the NSF gene locus, revealed copy numbers ranging from two to at least seven. Additionally, significant inter-population differences in the distribution of these copy numbers were observed. These data suggest that insight into absolute DNA copy numbers for loci exhibiting CNV is required to determine their potential contribution to normal phenotypic variation and, in addition, disease susceptibility.