Achieving adequate levels of uptake in cancer screening requires a variety of approaches that need to be shaped by the characteristics of both the screening programme and the target population. Strategies to improve uptake typically produce only incremental increases. Accordingly, approaches that combine behavioural, organisational and other strategies are most likely to succeed. In conjunction with a focus on uptake, providers of screening services need to promote informed decision making among invitees. Addressing inequalities in uptake must remain a priority for screening programmes. Evidence informing strategies targeting low-uptake groups is scarce, and more research is needed in this area. Cancer screening has the potential to make a major contribution to early diagnosis initiatives in the United Kingdom, and will best be achieved through uptake strategies that emphasise wide coverage, informed choice and equitable distribution of cancer screening services.