The estimation of cancer burden is valuable to set up priorities for disease control. The comprehensive global cancer statistics from the International Agency for Research on Cancer indicate that gynaecological cancers accounted for 19% of the 5.1 million estimated new cancer cases, 2.9 million cancer deaths and 13 million 5-year prevalent cancer cases among women in the world in 2002. Cervical cancer accounted for 493 000 new cases and 273 000 deaths; uterine body cancer for 199 000 new cases and 50 000 deaths; ovarian cancer for 204 000 new cases and 125 000 deaths; cancers of the vagina, vulva and choriocarcinoma together constituted 45 900 cases. More than 80% of the cervical cancer cases occurred in developing countries and two-thirds of corpus uteri cases occurred in the developed world. Political will and advocacy to invest in healthcare infrastructure and human resources to improve service delivery and accessibility are vital to reduce the current burden in low- and medium-resource countries.