Recent studies suggest that knowledge of differential expression of microRNAs (miRNA) in cancer may have substantial diagnostic and prognostic value. Here, we use a direct sequencing method to characterize the profiles of miRNAs and other small RNA segments for six human cervical carcinoma cell lines and five normal cervical samples. Of 166 miRNAs expressed in normal cervix and cancer cell lines, we observed significant expression variation of six miRNAs between the two groups. To further show the biological relevance of our findings, we examined the expression level of two significantly varying miRNAs in a panel of 29 matched pairs of human cervical cancer and normal cervical samples. Reduced expression of miR-143 and increased expression of miR-21 were reproducibly displayed in cancer samples, suggesting the potential value of these miRNAs as tumor markers. In addition to the known miRNAs, we found a number of novel miRNAs and an additional set of small RNAs that do not meet miRNA criteria.