We used New Zealand data on occurrence of different types of brain cancer to investigate: (i) a possible secular increase which has been seen worldwide and has generated considerable debate; (ii) possibly higher rates among Maori; and (iii) possibly higher risks related to social class and occupation. Data from the NZ Cancer Registry on the 5,684 brain cancers diagnosed among NZ residents from 1948-88 were used to study the pattern of occurrence by gender, age, race, calendar year, social class, occupation, and histology. Age-standardized brain-cancer incidence rates per 100,000 more than doubled over the 41-year period (from 2.9 to 6.9 in males and from 2.1 to 5.1 in females). A strong trend of increasing incidence with increasing social class is seen in males (Ptrend = 0.01). Among Maori, the proportion of all brain cancer that is medulloblastoma is four times that among non-Maori, and the proportion of all brain cancers that lack histologic confirmation is about 40 percent higher. Elevated risks are seen among: dairy farmers (odds ratio [OR] = 3.4, 95 percent confidence interval [CI] = 1.9-6.0); sheep handlers (OR = 2.7, CI = 1.4-5.3); livestock workers (OR = 3.8, CI = 1.7-8.4); and farm managers (OR = 3.2, CI = 1.4-7.2); as well as among electrical engineers (OR = 8.2, CI = 20-34.7); electricians (OR = 4.6, CI = 1.7-12.2); and other electrical workers. Brain cancer rates in NZ have increased steadily since 1948, but this increase has leveled off in the most recent five-year period. Although brain cancer rates are likely to be underestimated among the Maori, an excess of medulloblastoma is evident in this group.