The personal beliefs and attitudes of nurses can have serious implications for their practice. Yet there are a lack of studies on nurses' attitudes to cancer in the UK in general, and in Northern Ireland specifically. The need for such studies is further emphasized by the importance of nurses' role in the Cancer Units of district general hospitals, as proposed by the Calman–Hine Report (Department of Health 1995). The aim of this study was to assess the attitudes to cancer of medical and surgical nurses who care for cancer patients in one district general hospital in Northern Ireland. A questionnaire comprising the Cancer Attitude Scale (Corner 1993) was administered to 106 qualified nurses. The response rate was 68.9% (n=73). Responses to items on the Cancer Attitude Scale show that while generally these nurses held positive attitudes, a high proportion also held negative views about cancer. Of particular concern were their attitudes to the value of active treatments. The implications of these findings are discussed.