The success of screening programmes for cancer will depend greatly on public attitudes if sufficiently high levels of participation are tobe attained. The aimof this study was to identify major independent dimensions of public attitudes to cancer through factor analysis of responses to interview questions using a representative population sample. Data were collected by questioning a random sample of 500 persons aged 18 or over in Canberra on their attitudes to and knowledge of cancer and experience of the disease in others knownpersonally to them. Subjects with the disease were excluded. Factor analysis showed four relatively independent attitude dimensions: anxiety about cancer, denial of the threat of cancer, fatalism about prevention and fatalism about control. Item analysis and inter-scale correlations confirmed the internal coherence and relative independence of these dimensions, except that the latter two showed a moderate positive correlation. It is suggested that cancer education and promotion of screening should deal separately yet concurrently with these four attitudes toachieve best effect.