Estimates of the worldwide incidence and mortality from 27 cancers in 2008 have been prepared for 182 countries as part of the GLOBOCAN series published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. In this article, we present the results for 20 world regions, summarizing the global patterns for the eight most common cancers. Overall, an estimated 12.7 million new cancer cases and 7.6 million cancer deaths occur in 2008, with 56% of new cancer cases and 63% of the cancer deaths occurring in the less developed regions of the world. The most commonly diagnosed cancers worldwide are lung (1.61 million, 12.7% of the total), breast (1.38 million, 10.9%) and colorectal cancers (1.23 million, 9.7%). The most common causes of cancer death are lung cancer (1.38 million, 18.2% of the total), stomach cancer (738,000 deaths, 9.7%) and liver cancer (696,000 deaths, 9.2%). Cancer is neither rare anywhere in the world, nor mainly confined to high-resource countries. Striking differences in the patterns of cancer from region to region are observed.