OBJECTIVE: To analyse the management and outcome of patients with Ta T1 urinary bladder cancer in a population-based national database. MATERIAL AND METHODS: Between 1997 and 2001, 94% of all newly diagnosed cases of urinary bladder cancer were registered in the Swedish National Bladder Cancer Register. Data were analysed regarding gender, healthcare region, stage and grade for patients with Ta T1 tumours. The choice of initial treatment in different regions was reviewed. Survival was analysed by calculating relative survival. RESULTS: Out of 9859 registered patients, there were 4442 Ta tumours and 2139 T1 tumours. The median age at diagnosis was 72 and 73 years for patients with Ta and T1 tumours, respectively. Seventy-six percent of the patients were men. The choice of treatment varied between different healthcare regions. A significant trend towards an increased use of intravesical therapy was seen over time. Significantly fewer older than younger patients received such therapy. There was also a tendency towards more intensive therapy in men. The bladder cancer relative 5-year survival rate was 93% for Ta and 75% for T1 tumours. Survival was similar for men and women. CONCLUSIONS: Our analysis revealed a regional variation in the treatment of bladder cancer. A large group of patients, even those at high risk, were still undertreated. However, the recent publication of guidelines may have contributed to an increased use of intravesical treatment. Urologists tended to treat TaG3 and T1G3 tumours more aggressively than T1G2 tumours. Therapeutic aggressiveness decreased as the age of the patients increased. The survival rate of patients with bladder cancer in Sweden seems to remain at the levels previously reported for the 1980s.