BACKGROUND: Cancer screening for early detection of cancer is essential in the reduction of cancer mortality, but it cannot be successful without the general public's active participation in performing the screening tests. The aim of this study was to examine the stage of readiness for cancer screening among Korean adults by using one of the stage theories, the Precaution Adoption Process Model (PAPM). METHODS: We developed a survey instrument to assess cancer screening behavior by applying the stages of the PAPM. A total of 1,057 adults participated across four municipalities from two metropolitan cities (Incheon and Busan) and two provinces (Kyeonggi-Do and Kyeongsangnam-Do) in Korea. The individuals were classified according to their stage of readiness to perform cancer screening tests regardless of the specific site of cancer. RESULTS: Overall, 28.6% of the participants surveyed had been screened for cancer in the two years prior to our survey. Among those who had not been screened, some had never heard of or had not thought about cancer screening (28.6%). Others were considering the possibility of performing cancer screening tests (29.8%) or had decided to perform them but had not yet acted (11.6%), while a few had decided not to perform them (1.5%). The most significant factors influencing whether or not cancer screening was performed were family experience with cancer screening, sex, age, marital status, region, and financial resources. CONCLUSION: In order to promote cancer screening in the general population, we should make adequate and appropriate interventions (including information, education, financial supports, etc.) to improve individuals' readiness to perform cancer screening.