There has been increasing interest in the attitudes that the general public and health care professionals hold towards cancer, the effect these have on an individual's likelihood to present early with symptoms, and the quality of care patients with the disease receive from carers. The research appears to indicate that the attitudes of both groups are largely negative and stereotyped, and cancer is seen as being more devastating than other life threatening diseases. These attitudes have been associated with patterns of poor communication and care for cancer patients. This paper looks critically at the research into the attitudes of nurses towards cancer and calls for more innovative methods than have been used to date. There is a need to increase our understanding of this complex problem before indications for education and practice can be made.