We assessed the overall progress against cancer during the years 1950 to 1982. In the United States, these years were associated with increases in the number of deaths from cancer, in the crude cancer-related mortality rate, in the age-adjusted mortality rate, and in both the crude and the age-adjusted incidence rates, whereas reported survival rates (crude and relative) for cancer patients also increased. In our view, the best single measure of progress against cancer is change in the age-adjusted mortality rate associated with all cancers combined in the total population. According to this measure, we are losing the war against cancer, notwithstanding progress against several uncommon forms of the disease, improvements in palliation, and extension of the productive years of life. A shift in research emphasis, from research on treatment to research on prevention, seems necessary if substantial progress against cancer is to be forthcoming.