Methods. To determine population knowledge, attitudes, and personal practices regarding prevention and early detection of cancer, random population samples of 25- to 74-year-old men and women in six various-sized communities in three upper-midwestern states (N =4,915) were administered surveys and interviews during 1987-1989. Results. Four-fifths of respondents believed cancer to be preventable. Knowledge of warning signs/symptoms of cancer and of leading causes of cancer, however, was low. Over 95% of women had had a Papanicolaou smear and a clinical breast exam or had performeda breast self-exam; 65.7% of those ages 50-65 years had had a mammogram. Among menand women ages 50-65 years, 77% had had a digital rectal exam; 52.5%, a fecal occult bloodtest; and 48.3%, a sigmoidoscopy. Conclusions. Conditions are favorable for an increase in mammography, including favorable attitudes toward cancer prevention, strong consensus among policy/making organizations regarding guidelines for obtaining mammograms, and high levels of adherence to these recommendations by women who have had at least their first mammogram. Challenges now include acceptance of these guidelines by physicians, mammogram affordability/availability, and demonstration of efficacious, cost-effective, and reliable colorectal/prostate cancer screening tests.