Mortality data, abstracted from the World Health Organization database, are presented in tabular form for 26 cancer sites or groups of sites, plus total cancer mortality, in 36 European countries during the period 1995–1999. Trends in mortality are also given in graphic form for 23 major countries plus the European Union as a whole over the period 1960–1999. In the European Union, total cancer mortality declined by 7% for both sexes over the last 5 years considered. The fall since the late 1980s was 10% in both sexes, corresponding to the avoidance of over 90,000 deaths per year, as compared to the rates of the late 1980s. For the first time, over the last few years, some leveling of mortality was reported also in the Russian Federation, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and other Eastern European countries, although cancer rates in those areas remain exceedingly high. The overall favorable pattern of cancer mortality over recent years is largely driven by the decline of tobacco-related cancer mortality in men. However, important components of the trends are also the persistence of substantial falls in gastric cancer, mainly in Russia and Eastern Europe, the recent decline in intestinal cancer in both sexes and of breast cancer in women, together with the long-term falls in uterine (cervical) cancer, leukemias, Hodgkin's disease and other neoplasms amenable to advancements in diagnosis and treatment. Female lung cancer mortality has been declining in the Russian Federation, but is still rising in other areas of the continent. Thus, urgent intervention is needed to bring under control the tobacco-related lung cancer epidemic in European women before it reaches the high level observed in North America. Supplementary material for this article can be found on the International Journal of Cancer website at http://www.interscience.wiley.com/jpages/0020-7136/suppmat/index.html © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.