Data from 2 Australian cancer registries covering a population of 1.7 million people were combined for the purposes of analysing brain cancer incidence, mortality and survival patterns for the time period 1978 through 1992. A total of 1,752 cases of primary brain cancer were registered, representing age-standardised incidence rates of 6.7 per 100,000 in men and 4.6 in women. Histological confirmation was available for 94% of cases. The incidence rate among persons aged 75 or over was higher during 1986-1992 than during 1978-1985, the rate for men increasing from 16.3 to 26.2 and that for women increasing from 9.7 to 18.0. The largest increases in this age group occurred for cases of glioblastoma multiforme. During the study period, 1,411 brain cancer deaths were notified to the 2 registries at age-standardised rates of 5.3 in men and 3.4 in women. Mortality rates among persons aged 75 years or older were higher during 1986-1992 than 1978-1985, increasing from 15.7 to 28.4 in men and from 10.1 to 15.3 in women. Only among men aged 15-49 years was a decline in mortality rates observed, from 3.3 to 2.4. Survival analyses indicated that age and histological type were the most powerful prognostic indicators. There was no improvement in 5-year survival for any of the age groups or histological types. An improvement in 36-month survival was noted for the 15-49 year age group diagnosed with gliomas other than glioblastoma multiforme.