Based on the criteria of Wilson and Jungner and experiences in the population-based organized cervical screening program in the Netherlands, conditions for efficient and effective population screening for cervical cancer are described. The purpose of this paper is to determine if these criteria are met for cervical cancer screening and to give recommendations for improvement. Cervical cancer is still an important health problem; the present incidence reflects both background risk and screening activity during previous decades. A positive effect of screening is reached because of the long development time of the disease and the ability of the Pap smear test to detect precancer and early, symptomatic disease. Considerable reduction in the incidence and mortality of cervical cancers can be reached if all women attend and all detected lesions are adequately followed up. Common terminology and classification criteria for histology and cytology should be used. Whether newly developed techniques that may improve or replace cytology can be used in screening programs should be a multidisciplinary decision after clinical trials have given evidence-based information on the performance, cost-effectiveness and need of these techniques. When cervical cancer screening is undertaken, it should be offered in organized programs at the medical level closest to the patients, the general practitioner. High compliance is the most important factor in reducing cervical cancer incidence. Quality control and assurance must be performed at all levels. In the case of limited resources, the program should use a five-year interval and concentrate on the age range 25-60 years, with special attention to women who have never been screened or were screened > 10 years previously. Evaluation of medical and organizational aspects is mandatory. Cooperation between all involved parties is a prerequisite of creating a successful screening program.