Primary liver cancer (PLC) is common in many areas of the developing world, but uncommon in most of the developed world. Some evidence suggests, however, that the global pattern of PLC may be changing. To clarify this issue, we examined incidence rates for PLC over the 15-year time period, 1978-92, in selected cancer registries around the world. With some exceptions, developed countries have experienced PLC increases in incidence whereas developing countries have experienced declines. Although the reasons for the trends are not entirely clear, the increased seroprevalence of HCV in the developed world and the elimination of HBV-cofactors in the developing world are likely to have contributed to the patterns. Further progress against PLC may be seen in the developing world once the HBV-vaccinated segment of the population reaches adulthood. Published 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.