All patients with total hip arthroplasty (THA) are exposed to soluble or particulate forms of Co and Cr. Adverse effects of these wear products are not known. Data from Nordic registries is used to estimate adverse effects on a large scale, based mostly on metal-on-polyethylene bearings. Cancer incidence was in line with the general population when the patients were operated on for all indications and significantly decreased when the indication was primary osteoarthritis. Stomach cancer and colorectal cancers were significantly reduced and prostate cancer and skin melanoma significantly increased. There was no significant excess of cancer in target organs, i.e. liver, kidney, or haematopoietic cancers. THA patients had reduced mortality and extended life expectancy compared with standard Nordic populations. All-site cancer incidence of the first-generation metal-on-metal McKee-Farrar patients operated on for primary osteoarthritis was in line with the general population after follow-up for up to 28 years. General mortality of these patients was also reduced and they also had an extended life expectancy. Temporary increases in haematopoietic cancers at different follow-up periods were seen in some cohorts. This malignancy deserves a special record linkage monitoring while large numbers of young patients are provided with the second generation of metal-on-metal prostheses.