BACKGROUND Previous studies suggest that elevated resting heart rate (RHR) is related to an increased risk of cancer mortality. The aim of this study was to evaluate the relation between RHR and cancer incidence and mortality in patients with vascular disease. METHODS Patients with manifest vascular disease (n=6007) were prospectively followed-up for cancer incidence and mortality. At baseline, RHR was obtained from an electrocardiogram. The relation between RHR and cancer incidence, cancer mortality and total mortality was assessed using competing risks models. RESULTS During a median follow-up of 6.0 years (interquartile range: 3.1-9.3) 491 patients (8%) were diagnosed with cancer and 907 (15%) patients died, 248 (27%) died from cancer. After adjustment for potential confounders, the hazard ratio (HR) for incident cancer per 10 beats/min increase in RHR was 1.00 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.93-1.07). There was a trend toward an increased risk of colorectal cancer in patients with higher RHR (HR 1.15, 95% CI 0.97-1.36). The risk of all-cause mortality was increased in patients in the highest quartile of RHR compared to the lowest quartile (HR 1.86, 95% CI 1.53-2.27), but no effect of RHR on cancer mortality was observed (HR 1.01, 95% CI 0.70-1.46). CONCLUSIONS In patients with manifest vascular disease, elevated RHR was related to a higher risk of premature all-cause mortality, but this was not due to increased cancer mortality. RHR was not related to risk of overall cancer incidence, although a relation between elevated RHR and incident colorectal cancer risk could not be ruled out.