Aim of this paper was to explore the trend and characteristics of cancer incidence in 11 areas (5 cities and 6 counties) in China. Data from cancer registries during 1988 to 2002 collected from the 11 cancer registry points were used to analyze the trends and characteristics of cancer incidence rates. There were 695 050 newly developed cancer cases in this study. The crude rate of incidence and the world age-adjusted incidence were 215.50/10(5) and 170.97/10(5) respectively. The leading cancer sites were lung, stomach, liver, esophagus, breast, colon, rectum, pancreas, bladder and leukemia. The sixteen key cancers accounted for 85.56% of all the cancer cases. The crude incidence rate of all cancers had been significantly increased from 1988 to 2002. Among them, prostate (185.48%) ranked the fastest growing one followed by cancers of the gallbladder, breast, colon, ovarian, lymphoma, bladder, pancreas, rectum, lung, leukemia and liver. The one that had reduced the most was cervix uteri (17.00%), followed by esophagus, stomach and nasopharynx. Crude cancer incidence rate increased in the 11 areas in China from 1988 to 2002. The ranking of pancreas cancer, bladder cancer and leukemia came into the top ten. Even though the incidence rates of prostate and gallbladder cancer were relative low but had a fast increase. The results of this study provided a scientific base for the development of a better strategy on cancer prevention and control in China.