As migrant studies can offer important information with regard to cancer aetiology, we estimated the cancer risk in first generation migrants using data of the Amsterdam Cancer Registry. The risk among western migrants was almost equal to the risk of the native population. Migrants from former Dutch colonies had a low cancer risk (standardised incidence ratios 0.69-0.81), while the lowest risks were observed for Turkey (0.66), Morocco (0.53) and sub-Sahara Africa (0.59). High risks in migrants from non-western countries were observed for cancer of the nasopharynx (China 51, Morocco 22), liver (China 13), gallbladder, cervix and thyroid, as well as for Kaposi's sarcoma, Hodgkin's lymphoma and mature T/NK-cell lymphoma. Cancer risk for breast, colorectum, lung, prostate, skin and testis was generally low. Although cancers related to infectious disease were relatively common among migrants from non-western countries, the low risks for mainly lifestyle related cancers resulted in a low overall risk.