Cancer incidence and mortality estimates for 1995 are presented for the 38 countries in the four United Nations-defined areas of Europe, using World Health Organization mortality data and published estimates of incidence from national cancer registries. Additional estimation was required where national incidence data was not available, and the method involved incorporating the high quality incidence and mortality data available from the expanding number of population-based cancer registries in Europe. There were an estimated 2.6 million new cases of cancer in Europe in 1995, representing over one-quarter of the world burden of cancer. The corresponding number of deaths from cancer was approximately 1.6 million. After adjusting for differing population age structures, overall incidence rates in men were highest in the Western European countries (420.9 per 100,000), with only Austria having a rate under 400. Eastern European men had the second highest rates of cancer (414.2), with extremely high rates being observed in Hungary (566.6) and in the Czech Republic (480.5). The lowest male all-cancer rate by area was observed in the Northern European countries, with fairly low rates seen in Sweden (356.6) and the UK (377.8). In contrast to men, the highest rates in women were observed in Northern Europe (315.9) and were particularly high in Denmark (396.2) and the other Nordic countries excepting Finland. The rates of cancer in Eastern European women were lower than in the other three areas, although as with men, female rates were very high in Hungary (357.2) and in the Czech Republic (333.6). There was greater disparity in the mortality rates within Europe--generally, rates were highest in Eastern European countries, notably in Hungary, reflecting a combination of poorer cancer survival rates and a higher incidence of the more lethal neoplasms, notably cancer of the lung. Lung cancer, with an estimated 377,000 cases, was the most common cancer in Europe in 1995. Rates were particularly high in much of Eastern Europe reflecting current and past tobacco smoking habits of many of its inhabitants. Together with cancers of colon and rectum (334,000), and female breast (321,000), the three cancers represented approximately 40% of new cases in Europe. In men, the most common primary sites were lung (22% of all cancer cases), colon and rectum (12%) and prostate (11%), and in females, breast (26%), colon and rectum (14%) and stomach (7%). The number of deaths is determined by survival, as well as incidence; by far the most common cause of death was lung cancer (330,000)--about one-fifth of the total number of cancer deaths in Europe in 1995. Deaths from cancers of the colon and rectum (189,000) ranked second, followed by deaths from stomach cancer (152,000), which due to poorer survival ranked higher than breast cancer (124,000). Lung cancer was the most common cause of death from cancer in men (29%). Breast cancer was the leading cause of death in females (17%). Cancer registries are a unique source of information on cancer incidence and survival, and are used here with national mortality to demonstrate the very substantial burden of cancer in Europe, and the scope for prevention. Despite some provisos about data quality, the general patterns which emerge in Europe verify the role of past exposures and interventions, and more importantly, firmly establish the need for cancer control measures which target specific populations. In particular, there is a clear urgency to combat the ongoing tobacco epidemic, now prevalent in much of Europe, particularly in the Eastern countries.