The direct costs of medical care for cancer are examined at Kaiser Permanente (KP) in Northern California. Use data from July 1987 through June 1991 were obtained from KP automated files for all 21,977 KP patients in the Bay Area SEER registry with cancer at one of seven cancer sites. Medical charts were reviewed for a stratified sample of 886 patients. Costs were estimated for initial, continuing, and terminal care, and for all person time within 15 years of diagnosis, by stage at diagnosis. From diagnosis until death or 15 years, long-term costs attributable to cancer were as follows: breast, $35,000; colon, $42,000; rectum, $51,000; lung, $33,000; ovarian, $64,000; prostate, $29,000; and Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (NHL), $48,000. The utilization and cost results reported here may be useful in assessing the cost-effectiveness of cancer prevention and control programs, in adjusting capitation rates and budgets, and in estimating the aggregate medical care costs attributable to cancer.