Archival, formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded cervical cancer specimens from 53 Alaska natives, 32 Greenland natives and 34 Danish Caucasians were analyzed for human papillomavirus (HPV) genotypes 16, 18, 31, 33, 35 and 45 and unidentified genotypes (HPV X) using PCR. The specimens were from the time period 1980-1989. No significant differences were observed in the overall HPV detection rates among cases from Alaska (98.1%), Greenland (84.4%) and Denmark (85.3%). HPV genotype 16 was the most prevalent type: 78.8% in Alaska natives, 96.3% in Greenland natives and 82.8% in Danish Caucasians. A prevalence of 21.2% HPV 31 and 30.8% HPV 33 was found in Alaska natives, of which most were coinfections with HPV 16. Only 3.7% HPV 31 and 3.7% HPV 33 were found in Greenland natives and no HPV 31 and 6.9% HPV 33 were found in Danish Caucasians. HPV 18 was only detected in Alaska natives and HPV 35 and 45 were not detected in any of the three populations. Infections with multiple genotypes were prevalent in Alaskan (36.5%) but not in Greenland natives (3. 7%) and Danish Caucasians (6.9%). The Eskimo subgroup of the Alaska native population has a significantly higher prevalence of HPV genotypes 31 and 33 associated with mixed infections in invasive cancer than the two other native subgroups (P = 0.04) and Greenland and Danish populations, reflecting genotype distributions in dysplasia and normal cervical cytology. The reason for HPV genotype diversity, although unknown, may be relevant to the current development of HPV vaccines.