To evaluate incidence rates (IRs) of classic Kaposi's sarcoma (CKS) in Italy after the spread of AIDS, we distinguished CKS from AIDS-related KS (AKS) using an 'ad hoc' record linkage procedure between 15 Cancer Registries (CRs) (21% of the Italian population) and the national AIDS Registry. Between 1985 and 1998, 874 cases of CKS and 634 cases of AKS were diagnosed in the study areas. CKS accounted for 16 and 27% of KS cases below 55 years of age in men and women, respectively, but for 91 and 100% of those above age 55. The IRs for CKS were 1.0/ in men and 0.4/100,000 in women, but they varied between 0.3 in Umbria and 4.7 in Sassari in men, and between 0.1 in Parma and 1.7 in Sassari in women. IRs of CKS in both genders were stable between 1985-1987 and 1993-1998. In Northern and Central CRs the IR (adjusted for age and gender) for CKS was 0.5 in individuals born in the same area, but 1.6 in individuals born in Southern Italy or in the Islands (rate ratio = 3.2) suggesting that KS-associated herpesvirus, the cause of KS, is acquired early in life.