American Cancer Society (ACS) literature commonly used to inform patients about cancer-detection methods, life-style risks, and treatment modalities was examined for readability. Fifty-one booklets obtained from a regional ACS office were evaluated. According to the SMOG formula, the reading level estimates of the booklets ranged from grade 5.8-15.6 (SD = 2.2), with a mean reading level of grade 11.9. The sampled cancer materials may be too difficult for many Americans to read and understand since most of the booklets (55%) were written for individuals with grade 12 or higher reading skills. Only one booklet was written at less than a grade six reading level. Booklets produced since 1985 were written at significantly lower reading levels (p less than 0.05) than those published in earlier years. The nurse's role in cancer education encompasses awareness of patients' diverse reading skills and formulation of a systematic method to develop materials that meet the needs of low-literacy groups.