The incidence of uterine cervical cancer has increased slightly in Western countries, with an increase in relatively young women. Overexpression of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs)-2 and -9 has turned out as a prognostic factor in many cancers. We compared the expression of the proteins MMP-2 and MMP-9 in cervical primary tumors with clinical outcome and risk factors of cervical cancer. One hundred sixty-one patients with cervical cancer treated in Umeå University Hospital or Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Sweden, between 1991 and 1995 were included in the study. Paraffin-embedded tissue samples obtained prior to treatment were examined immunohistochemically by specific antibodies for MMP-2 and MMP-9. Forty-two percent of the tumors were intensively positive for MMP-2 and 31% for MMP-9. Nineteen percent of the samples were intensively positive for both proteinases and 47% negative or weak for both. Overexpression of MMP-2 seemed to predict unfavorable survival under Kaplan–Meier analysis and in the multivariate analysis. Early sexual activity and low parity seemed to correlate to overexpression of MMP-2. MMP-9 was not associated with survival or sexual behavior. Intensive MMP-9 was noted in grade 1 tumors. We conclude that MMP-2 and MMP-9 have different roles in uterine cervical cancer. MMP-2 could be associated with aggressive behavior, but MMP-9 expression diminishes in high-grade tumors.