The Minnesota Department of Health has completed a 2-year feasibility study comparing the completeness and accuracy of information from pathology-based cancer ascertainment with that of the traditional surveillance method based on hospital discharge records. Overall, for incident cancers, the primary site designation of the pathology-based system was correct for 94.5% of the cancers, and the histologic designation was correct for 97.0% of the cancers. For prevalent cancers the accuracy of both site and histology designation was inadequate at 81.0 and 76.8% respectively. Pathology-based ascertainment was more complete than discharge-based surveillance (98.4% vs. 96.6%), which reflected the growing number of cancers diagnosed in hospital outpatient departments and medical clinics. The major limitation of the pathology-based system was the inability to determine from written pathology reports whether the cancer was newly diagnosed. However, when asked, pathologists correctly determined the incidence status for approximately 75% of the cancers. In light of the results of the feasibility study, Minnesota is implementing a pathology-based system as a cost-effective, scientifically valid method to meet the state's current and future needs for cancer surveillance.