For cancer screening programmes to bring about reductions in mortality, a substantial proportion of the population must participate. Programmes with low uptake can be ineffective and can promote inequalities in health-service provision. Strategies to promote uptake are multifaceted, reflecting differences in the cancers targeted, invitees, health-service contexts, and the tests themselves. Accordingly, there is no universal approach. Strategies should accommodate the many factors that can influence uptake and should incorporate the need to promote informed choice. Screening has the potential to cause harm, and there is an ethical imperative to seek out strategies that provide balanced information on cancer screening. Further research is needed to assess newer approaches to promoting uptake, such as IT-based programmes, and to identify strategies that are balanced, self-sustaining, and affordable.