To update its cancer statistics, the newly established Middle East Cancer Society examined the cancer frequency patterns in Egypt and the Gaza Strip. The results revealed differing overall patterns. For men the highest frequencies were found for lymphoma, bladder cancer and cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx in Egypt, and for lung cancer, leukaemia and lymphoma in Gaza. For women, breast cancer had the highest frequency in both areas, followed by cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx in Egypt, and leukaemia and lymphoma in Gaza. The distribution of cancer occurrence by organ system also varied. In the light of the different ethnicities, lifestyles, socioeconomic levels and carcinogenic exposure among the countries of the Middle East, this kind of comparison can provide the background for more sophisticated approaches for discerning risk factors in cancer. We believe that further cooperation among participating countries will overcome the present limitations in data collection, registration and access.