Previous research has reported a lack of regular cancer screening among Chinese Americans. The overall objectives of this study were to use a mail survey of primary care physicians who served Chinese Americans in San Francisco to investigate: a) the attitudes, beliefs, and practices regarding breast, cervical, and colon cancer screening and b) factors influencing the use of these cancer screening tests. The sampling frame for our mail survey consisted of: a) primary care physicians affiliated with the Chinese Community Health Plan and b) primary care physicians with a Chinese surname listed in the Yellow Pages of the 1995 San Francisco Telephone Directory. A 5-minute, self-administered questionnaire was developed and mailed to 80 physicians, and 51 primary care physicians completed the survey. A majority reported performing regular clinical breast examinations (84%) and teaching their patients to do self-breast examinations (84%). However, the rate of performing Pap smears was only 61% and the rate of ordering annual mammograms for patients aged 50 and older was 63%. The rates of ordering annual fecal occult blood testing and sigmoidoscopy at regular intervals of three to five years among patients aged 50 and older were 69% and 20%, respectively. Barriers (patient-specific, provider-specific, and practice logistics) to using cancer screening tests were identified. The data presented in this study provide a basis for developing interventions to increase performance of regular cancer screening among primary care physicians serving Chinese Americans. Cancer screening rates may be improved by targeting the barriers to screening identified among these physicians. Strategies to help physicians overcome these barriers are discussed.