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Tumours of the central nervous system (CNS) account for 15–20% of all malignant childhood tumours in developed countries. Steady improvement of survival of children with CNS tumours has been reported for the past decades. However, these results, obtained by cohort analysis of survival, do not reflect the full extent of recent improvement.Using selected registries from the database of the Automated Childhood Cancer Information System (ACCIS), we calculated period survival estimates for the years 1995–99 for children diagnosed with a malignant CNS tumour.The overall 10-year period survival estimate for the years 1995–99 was 59% for children with all CNS tumours combined, 73% for children with astrocytoma, 53% for children with ependymoma and 45% for children with primitive neuroectodermal tumours. On average, estimates derived by cohort analysis (pertaining to children diagnosed in 1985–89) were around 4% units lower. Region-specific analysis revealed that recent progress was largest in Eastern Europe, where prognosis nevertheless remained lower than in other European regions. In Northern and Southern Europe, 10-year survival remained essentially unchanged.Although period survival of children with CNS tumours is higher than previously reported cohort survival, their long-term prognosis remains modest compared to other childhood malignancies.