Reports of increasing rates for kidney cancers in several count prompted this analysis of global incidence trends for total kidney cancers and by subsite. International incidence data for 5-year periods 1973-1977, 1978-1982, 1983-1987 and 1988-1992 were obtained from volumes IV to VII of Cancer Incidence in Five Continents published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The USA data for the same 5-year periods were obtained from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program of the National Cancer Institute. Percentage changes in incidence rates were computed using the relative difference between the time periods 1973-1977 and 1988-1992, and annual percentage changes in incidence rates were computed using log linear regression. In 1988-1992, kidney cancer incidence rates (age-adjusted to the world-standard population) were highest in France (16.1/100,000 man-years and 7.3/100,000 woman-years) and lowest in India (2.0 and 0.9, respectively). Between 1973-1977 and 1988-1992, incidence rates rose among men and women in all regions and ethnic groups, with a few exceptions, mostly in Scandinavian countries. The largest percentage increase for men was in Japan (171%) and for women in Italy (107%). Rates for renal pelvis cancer were less than 1/100,000 person-years in almost all regions in both sexes, and the temporal trends were inconsistent. Incidence trends for renal parenchyma cancer tracked those for total kidney cancers, and appeared to result from increases in the prevalence of risk factors and in use of diagnostic imaging procedures.