Little is known about access, sources, and trust of cancer-related information, or factors that facilitate or hinder communication on a population-wide basis. Through a careful developmental process involving extensive input from many individuals and organizations, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) developed the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) to help fill this gap. This nationally representative telephone survey of 6,369 persons aged > or = 18 years among the general population was first conducted in 2002-2003, and will be repeated biennially depending on availability of funding. The purpose of creating a population survey to be repeated on a cyclical basis is to track trends in the public's rapidly changing use of new communication technologies while charting progress in meeting health communication goals in terms of the public's knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. The HINTS survey instrument was built upon extant models of health communication and behavior change, taking into account the rapidly changing communication environment. Questions in the survey were drawn from an overall theoretical framework that juxtaposed the"push" aspects of traditional broadcast media against the"pull" aspects of new media. HINTS data will be made widely available for researchers and practitioners; it will help further research in health communication and health promotion and provide useful information for programs, policies, and practices in a variety of settings.