In the 17th Nationwide Follow-up Survey of Primary Liver Cancer in Japan, 18 213 individuals were newly registered as patients with primary liver cancer at 645 medical institutions over a period of 2 years (from 1 January 2002 to 31 December 2003). Of these patients, 94.2% had hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and 4.1% had intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (ICC). In addition, 24 705 follow-up patients were registered in the survey. Epidemiological and clinicopathological factors, diagnosis and treatment were investigated in the newly registered patients, and the cumulative survival rates of newly registered patients in the 12th to 17th follow-up surveys conducted between 1992 and 2003 were calculated for each histological type (HCC, ICC, and combined HCC and ICC) and stratified by background factors and treatment. The data obtained in this follow-up survey should contribute to future research and medical practice for primary liver cancer.