OBJECTIVE: The New Hampshire State Cancer Registry (NHSCR) has a 2-phase reporting system. An abbreviated, "rapid" report of cancer diagnosis or treatment is due to the central registry within 45 days of diagnosis and a more detailed, definitive report is due within 180 days. Rapid reports are used for various research studies, but researchers who contact patients are warned that the rapid reports may contain inaccuracies. This study aimed to assess the reliability of rapid cancer reports. METHODS: For diagnosis years 2000-2004, we compared the rapid and definitive reports submitted to NHSCR. We calculated the sensitivity and positive predictive value of rapid reports; the reliability of key data items overall and for major sites; and the time between diagnosis and submission of the report. RESULTS: Rapid reports identified incident cancer cases with a sensitivity of 88.5%. The overall accuracy of key data items was high. The accuracy of primary sites identified by rapid reports was high generally but lower for ovarian and unknown primaries. A subset analysis showed that 47% of cancers were reported within 90 days of diagnosis. CONCLUSION: Rapid reports submitted to NHSCR are generally of high quality and present a useful opportunity for research investigations in New Hampshire.