Cancer incidence and mortality estimates for 25 cancers are presented for the 40 countries in the four United Nations-defined areas of Europe and for the European Union (EU-27) for 2012. We used statistical models to estimate national incidence and mortality rates in 2012 from recently-published data, predicting incidence and mortality rates for the year 2012 from recent trends, wherever possible. The estimated rates in 2012 were applied to the corresponding population estimates to obtain the estimated numbers of new cancer cases and deaths in Europe in 2012. There were an estimated 3.45 million new cases of cancer (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) and 1.75 million deaths from cancer in Europe in 2012. The most common cancer sites were cancers of the female breast (464,000 cases), followed by colorectal (447,000), prostate (417,000) and lung (410,000). These four cancers represent half of the overall burden of cancer in Europe. The most common causes of death from cancer were cancers of the lung (353,000 deaths), colorectal (215,000), breast (131,000) and stomach (107,000). In the European Union, the estimated numbers of new cases of cancer were approximately 1.4 million in males and 1.2 million in females, and around 707,000 men and 555,000 women died from cancer in the same year. These up-to-date estimates of the cancer burden in Europe alongside the description of the varying distribution of common cancers at both the regional and country level provide a basis for establishing priorities to cancer control actions in Europe. The important role of cancer registries in disease surveillance and in planning and evaluating national cancer plans is becoming increasingly recognised, but needs to be further advocated. The estimates and software tools for further analysis (EUCAN 2012) are available online as part of the European Cancer Observatory (ECO) (http://eco.iarc.fr). Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.