Objectives To consider the recent evidence which examines factors that are associated with uptake of cervical and breast screening in the British South Asian community and to consider the effectiveness of interventions to improve uptake in this group. MethodsA search strategy was developed and key databases were searched to identify primary research studies that examined the uptake of cervical and breast screening in British women of South Asian origin. Studies published prior to 1996 were excluded from the review. ResultsSeventy-eight studies were identified and ten were included in the review. Observational studies demonstrated mixed results on the effect of ethnicity on uptake of screening. Controlling for confounders attenuated the effect in all studies and removed its effect entirely in some. Investigation of low uptake in qualitative and quantitative research indicates that South Asian women were more likely to have incorrect addresses and language or cultural barriers to screening than other women. Few interventional studies were identified and all varied in their design. The success of interventions was mixed and the lack of control groups in some studies made it difficult to draw conclusions on their effectiveness. ConclusionThere is a poor uptake of cervical and breast screening by South Asian women compared with the general population in Britain. Evidence is inconclusive as to whether this is due to a residual effect of ethnicity following control for socio-demographic and local health service variables. Currently there is a lack of robust experimental studies on which to base interventions intended to increase uptake in this population.