Lung cancer rates have peaked among men in many areas of the world, but rates among women continue to rise. Most lung cancers are squamous cell carcinoma, small cell carcinoma, or adenocarcinoma; trends vary according to type. We compiled population-based morphology-specific incidence data from registries contributing to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) databases. Unspecified cancers and carcinomas were reallocated based on a registry, time period, sex and age group-specific basis. Where available, data from several registries within a country were pooled for analysis. Rates per 100,000 person-years for 1980-1982 to 1995-1997 were age-adjusted by the direct method using the world standard. Squamous cell carcinoma rates among males declined 30% or more in North America and some European countries while changing less dramatically in other areas; small cell carcinoma rates decreased less rapidly. Squamous and small cell carcinoma rates among females generally rose, with the increases especially pronounced in the Netherlands and Norway. In contrast, adenocarcinoma rates rose among males and females in virtually all areas, with the increases among males exceeding 50% in many areas of Europe; among females, rates also rose rapidly and more than doubled in Norway, Italy and France. Rates of all lung cancer types among women and adenocarcinoma among men continue to rise despite declining cigarette use in many Western countries and shifts to filtered/low-tar cigarettes. Renewed efforts toward cessation and prevention are mandatory to curb the prevalence of cigarette smoking and to reduce lung cancer rates eventually.