Objective Ovarian cancers comprise several histologically distinct tumour groups with widely different prognosis. We aimed to describe the worldwide distribution of ovarian cancer histology and to understand what role this may play in international variation in survival. Methods The CONCORD programme is the largest population-based study of global trends in cancer survival. Data on 681,759 women diagnosed during 1995���2009 with cancer of the ovary, fallopian tube, peritoneum and retroperitonum in 51 countries were included. We categorised ovarian tumours into six histological groups, and explored the worldwide distribution of histology. Results During 2005���2009, type II epithelial tumours were the most common. The proportion was much higher in Oceania (73.1%), North America (73.0%) and Europe (72.6%) than in Central and South America (65.7%) and Asia (56.1%). By contrast, type I epithelial tumours were more common in Asia (32.5%), compared with only 19.4% in North America. From 1995 to 2009, the proportion of type II epithelial tumours increased from 68.6% to 71.1%, while the proportion of type I epithelial tumours fell from 23.8% to 21.2%. The proportions of germ cell tumours, sex cord-stromal tumours, other specific non-epithelial tumours and tumours of non-specific morphology all remained stable over time. Conclusions The distribution of ovarian cancer histology varies widely worldwide. Type I epithelial, germ cell and sex cord-stromal tumours are generally associated with higher survival than type II tumours, so the proportion of these tumours may influence survival estimates for all ovarian cancers combined. The distribution of histological groups should be considered when comparing survival between countries and regions.