The authors reviewed literature which has been published in the last 20 years. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in developed countries and is expected to become a significant cause of death in developing countries. Whilst there are a large number of studies on cancer and men, there is a paucity of data on men from minority ethnic groups. In the USA, African Americans are more likely to develop cancer than any other ethnic group. Although cancer rates amongst minority ethnic groups in the UK are thought to be low, 11% of Indian and African men and 19% of Caribbean men died from cancer during 1979–1983. There is also further evidence in the USA that African American, Filipinos and Native Americans have the lowest cancer survival rates. Service utilization, especially tertiary care, is also thought to be low amongst minority ethnic groups from the USA and the UK. Reasons for these variations include artefactual, cultural, materialist and social selectivist explanations as well as the effects of migration, racism and genetic disposition. This area is under-researched, in particular cultural beliefs about cancer. Further research into this area should apply culturally competent methods to ensure valid data to inform cancer policy, education and practice.