Abstract Geographical variability of cancer burden was almost exclusively estimated for common cancers. Since rare cancers (RC) have become an area of priority for basic and clinical research and public health organizations, this paper provides, using a common methodology, a detailed comparison of incidence and survival for RC in the US and Europe. We estimated incidence and net survival of 199 malignant RC from data of 2 580 000 patients collected by 18 US‐SEER and 94 European registries, diagnosed within the most recent common period 2000‐2007. RC were defined according to the criterion of crude annual incidence rates 65+ years of age. Use of standardized methods evidenced that incidence and survival rate of majority of RC were higher in the United States compared to Europe. Possible reasons for such differences, requiring further studies, include distribution of risk factors, ability to diagnose RC, different registration practices, and use of updated International Classification of Diseases for Oncology.