Background: Diabetes has been associated with an increased risk of several cancers, notably cancers of the pancreas, liver, endometrium, and kidney. Since most previous studies have involved a limited sample size or focused on specific cancer sites, we conducted a comprehensive assessment of the risk of cancer in a nationwide cohort of diabetics in Denmark. Methods: Discharge records of 109 581 individuals hospitalized with a diagnosis of diabetes from 1977 through 1989 were linked with national cancer registry records through 1993. Standardized incidence ratios (SIRs) were calculated for specific cancer sites. Results: The SIRs for primary liver cancer were 4.0 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 3.5-4.6) in males and 2.1 (95% CI = 1.6- 2.7) in females. These SIRs remained elevated with increasing years of follow-up and after exclusion of patients with re-ported risk factors (e.g., cirrhosis and hepatitis) or patients whose cancers were diagnosed at autopsy. Kidney cancer risk was also elevated, with SIRs of 1.4 (95% CI = 1.2-1.6) in males and 1.7 (95% CI = 1.4-1.9) in females. For both sexes combined, the SIR for pancreatic cancer was 2.1 (95% CI = 1.9-2.4), with a follow-up time of 1- 4 years; this SIR declined to 1.3 (95% CI = 1.1-1.6) after 5-9 years of follow-up. Excess risks were also observed for biliary tract and endometrial cancers. The SIRs for kidney and endometrial cancers declined somewhat after exclusion of diabetics with reported obesity. Conclusions: Patients hospitalized with a diagnosis of diabetes appear to be at higher risk of developing cancers of the liver, biliary tract, pancreas, endometrium, and kidney. The elevated risks of endometrial and kidney cancers, however, may be confounded by obesity.