The current cancer landscape within transitional economies in central and Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean area is not particularly optimistic. Current perceptions are often based on extrapolations from other countries and regions; and hence the authors collaborated with the South Eastern Europe Oncology Group (SEEROG) to collect information on cancer registration in Central and Eastern Europe, Israel and Turkey. Healthcare authorities and specialist oncology centres in 21 countries in the region were contacted for information on cancer registries in their countries. Based on this information, the authors believe that the recording and reporting of data on cancer in the region is at an acceptable level. The authors discuss and compare institution- and population-based registries, and present opinions on elements of an ‘ideal registry’ based on the survey replies and comparisons with other registries. A comparison with the sources used for GLOBOCAN 2008 illustrates the need for consistent data to be communicated, published and utilised throughout the region and the oncology community. The authors conclude by considering the potential value of collaboration between health authorities across the region, as well as between the clinical and epidemiological communities, to ensure that cancer data are consistently collected, verified and made public.