Japan has a population of about 127 million, with an average life expectancy that is one of the highest in the world. Cancer has been the leading cause of death in Japan since 1981. The incidence of cancer for all sites in 1994 was estimated to be 440 000; crude incidence rates per 100 000 for males and females were 416.3 and 299.4, respectively. In 1997, the number of cancer deaths was 275 413; crude death rates for males and females per 100 000 were 273.0 and 169.9, respectively. Projections for 2015 indicate that 890 000 people will develop cancer and 450 000 will die as a result. It is not too much to say that Japan is now amid a 'Cancer Era'. Meanwhile, the progress in medical sciences is improving survival in cancer patients; in cancer patients diagnosed during 1987-89, relative 5-year survival was reported to be 41.2% for all sites and cancer survivorship research estimated the number of cancer survivors for all sites in 1998 who have lived for between 5 and 24 years after diagnosis to be 1.5 million. The Ministry of Health and Welfare is focusing on five different measures in the implementation of its cancer control programs: public health education, nationwide cancer screening programs, development and support of specialized medical institutions, training of specialists and promotion of basic and clinical cancer research. As a tool for public health education, the Ministry published in 2000 a 10-year health promotion program entitled 'Healthy Japanese in the 21st Century'. In the plan, seven particular goals are enumerated with regard to cancer. In practice, issues of concern include the development of new modalities, telling the truth to cancer patients, clinical trials and bioethical issues.