Pancreatic cystic neoplasms (PCN) are a heterogeneous group of pancreatic cysts that include intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms, mucinous cystic neoplasms, serous cystic neoplasms and other rare cystic lesions, all with different biological behaviours and variable risk of progression to malignancy. As more pancreatic cysts are incidentally discovered on routine cross-sectional imaging, optimal surveillance for patients with PCN is becoming an increasingly common clinical problem, highlighting the need to balance cancer prevention with the risk of (surgical) overtreatment. This Review summarizes the latest developments in the diagnosis and management of PCN, including the quality of available evidence. Also discussed are the most important differences between the PCN guidelines from the American Gastroenterological Association, the International Association of Pancreatology and the European Study Group on Cystic Tumours of the Pancreas, including diagnostic and follow-up strategies and indications for surgery. Finally, new developments in the management of patients with PCN are addressed.