A total of 160 indigenous Greenlandic women had incident cervical cancer diagnosed during 1976-1991, and 41 of these women (27%) had had at least one negative smear reported during the 10 years preceding the diagnosis of cancer. Thirteen patients had previously had abnormalities of the cervix. Of the remaining 28 patients, 17 had so-called interval cancer diagnosed within three years after a negative smear result. In seven of these cases, representing 4% of all incident cancers during the period, there had previously been two or more negative smears. Suboptimal sampling of negative smears was suggested in roughly one out of two interval cancers. The results suggest that rapid biological development of cervical cancer is infrequent among Greenlandic females and that efforts should be aimed at increasing the smear test's sensitivity and providing a better follow-up of women with cervical abnormalities rather than shortening the three-year rescreening interval.