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We calculate the receiver power penalty due to the accumulated dispersion slope of optical filter cascades in wavelength-division-multiplexed optical networks. For flat-top fiber Bragg grating and thin-film filters, dispersive rather than amplitude filter effects dominate the cascade power penalty, which increases with dispersion slope and signal frequency detuning from the cascade zero-dispersion point. The dispersion slope of these filters varies as the inverse cube of their bandwidth, using increased penalties for narrow filters in systems with small channel spacing, For a 60-GHz-wide Bragg grating filter with a 1.3-ns/nm/sup 2/ dispersion slope, a cascade of 26 filters can be tolerated at 10 Gbit/s with /spl plusmn/5 GHz allowed detuning. Optically preamplified receivers have significantly larger dispersion penalties than thermal-noise-limited receivers.