A random digit dialing method was used to select a stratified random sample of 413 residents from 5 counties in Northwest Ohio for the purpose of assessing public perceptions and behaviors regarding cancer. A fatalistic attitude was expressed by 46% of respondents, who agreed that it seems that almost everything causes cancer. Twenty-four percent agreed that one can do little to prevent cancer. Respondents expressed greater concern with cancer than with several major diseases, including AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). Eighty percent of females and 74% of males favored smoking restrictions in work areas, and 62% of females and 52% of males favored a total smoking ban in work areas. The majority of respondents reported having made some health protective behavior changes in the last year, but reported use of cancer screening procedures was low. A relationship was found between confidence in media reports about causes of cancer and a fatalistic attitude about cancer. Implications for public education about cancer are discussed.