Malignancies are the second most important cause of mortality in Chile, accounting for 21.8% of total deaths. In comparison with other causes, cancer mortality shows an upward trend with increasing mortality rates from 99 to 118 per 100.000 population in the period 1980-1998. The most important cancer locations are stomach, lung and prostate among men and gallbladder, stomach, breast and uterine cervix in women. According to present risks, the mean probability for a Chilean to die from cancer is 3.0% for stomach, 2.3% for prostate, 2.0% for lung, 1.7% for gallbladder, 1.6% for breast and 1.2% for uterine cervix cancer. Recent trends of cancer crude death rates are a matter of concern. During the period 1990-1998 a significant decrease of death rates was only noticed for uterine cervix cancers. On the other hand, important increases were observed for prostate, lung, gallbladder, colon and kidney cancers. If death rates are adjusted by age, an increased risk, not due to the population aging process, is noticed for prostate and to less extent for kidney, colon, skin and myeloma. The adjusted rates show a downward trend for uterine cervix, stomach, breast and esophagus cancer. Increasing cancer mortality is associated with diagnostic and therapeutic delays. Possible actions in screening programs are discussed.