We conducted a 4-year randomized study in a community health center that serves primarily low income Blacks in Durham, North Carolina. Patients (1318 at baseline) were assigned randomly to one of three study groups: provider prompting intervention alone, provider prompting and tailored print materials or the previous group and tailored telephone counseling. The purpose of the study was to determine whether increasingly intensive, tailored print and telephone interventions also were increasingly effective in promoting adherence to mammograms, Pap tests and overall cancer screening compliance. Thus, the combination of tailored print interventions (print and telephone) should have been more effective than the provider prompting intervention alone, or the print intervention and prompting combination. This is one of the few studies to examine a measure of overall cancer screening compliance and to assess the benefit of combinations of tailored interventions in promoting adherence to cancer screening. Patients gave extremely high ratings to the interventions. At the bivariate level, we found a significant effect of the most intensive group (provider prompting intervention, tailored print communications and tailored telephone counseling) on Pap test compliance (P = 0.05) and borderline significance at the multivariate level (P = 0.06) as well on overall screening compliance (P = 0.06). There was not a significant effect on mammography, probably because a majority of the patients were receiving regular mammograms. We also found some important subgroup differences. For example, a larger proportion of women reported Pap tests in the tailored print and counseling group when they believed the materials were 'meant for me.' These results show that a combination of tailored interventions may have potential for reaching the women who have too often been labeled the 'hard to reach.'