The Northern Region Young Persons' Malignant Disease Registry records information on young people under 25 years old diagnosed with cancer in the Northern Region of England. Incidence and survival rates were calculated for children and young adults diagnosed with cancer between 1968 and 1995. There were 2099 (M:F 1.28:1) children (age 0-14 years) and 2217 (M:F 1.23:1) young adults (15-24 years) diagnosed with a first cancer between 1968 and 1995. The age-standardized rate (ASR) for childhood cancer was 121 per million 0 to 14 year-olds per year. For young adults the ASR was 175 per million 15 to 24 year-olds, per year. Incidence of childhood cancer increased over time at a rate of 12 extra cases per million children, per decade (P < 0.001). In young adults incidence rates increased by 16 extra cases per million 15 to 24 year-olds, per decade (P < 0.001). For childhood cancer 5-year survival was 42% for those diagnosed 1968-1977, 57% for 1978-1987 and 71% (95% CI 67-75) for 1988-1995. Survival for young adults over the three periods was 45%, 62% and 73% (95% CI 70-78) respectively. The cumulative risk of developing cancer before the age of 25 is 1 in 285. Over the 28-year period there were significant improvements in survival and modest increases in incidence in both children and young adults.