The purpose of the study was to gain insight into epidemiological aspects of soft tissue sarcomas (STS), based on the population-based cancer registry of the Comprehensive Cancer Center North-Netherlands (CCCN), and to provide data for the development of future STS clinical trials. 456 primary STS (Kaposi, urogenital and gastro-intestinal STS excluded), registered from 1989 to 1995 by the cancer registration of the Comprehensive Cancer Center North-Netherlands (CCCN), were analysed. The annual, age-adjusted, STS incidence was 3.6 per 100,000. Incidence increased with age. Half of the patients were over the age of 65 years. Malignant fibrous histiocytomas and liposarcomas were most frequently encountered. At presentation, nodal involvement was rare (3-8%). Distant metastases were more frequently encountered (9-14%), and appeared to be related to tumour size and site. Above 70 years of age, 16% of patients received no treatment at all, especially for metastatic disease.