OBJECTIVE: To compare profiles of a prescreening and screening cohort of women with cervical cancer regarding histopathology and clinical variables in order to identify those remaining at risk despite successful screening programs. By analyzing these profiles we hope to improve future screening methods. METHODS: The prescreening and screening cohorts consisted of 5,046 and 1,174 women, respectively, treated for cervical cancer at the Department of Gynecological Oncology at Radiumhemmet, Karolinska University Hospital, during the periods 1944-1957 and 1990-2004. RESULTS: Mean age increased from 48.9 years to 55.3 years in the cohorts treated 1944-1957 and 1990-2004, respectively. The percentage of patients older than 69 years was 5.4% and 27.3% in the prescreening and screening period, respectively. A shift towards earlier stages at diagnosis, a reduction of squamous cervical cancer and an increase of adenocarcinoma were observed in the screening cohort. The percentage of adenocarcinoma was about 6 times higher among younger patients. Cases of stump cancer and cervical cancer associated with pregnancy have declined. Eighty-seven women in the screening cohort had a history of treatment for in situ carcinoma by conization; 28% of these cases developed cervical cancer within one year after conization. CONCLUSION: The profile changed in the screening era indicating a need to refine screening for improved detection of in older women. This study, one of the largest clinical series of cervical cancer, provides an important baseline with which later studies can be compared to evaluate the effects of human papillomavirus vaccine and other important changes in this field.