BACKGROUND: Cancer is the leading cause of death in the United States, with the burden expected to rise in the coming decades, increasing the need for effective cancer prevention and screening options. The United States Preventive Services Task Force has suggested that a shared decision-making process be used when clinicians and patients discuss cancer screening. The electronic medical record (EMR) often provides only reminders or alerts to primary care providers (PCPs) when screenings are due, a strategy with limited efficacy. METHODS: We administered a cross-sectional electronic survey to PCPs (n = 165, 53% response rate) at 36 Essentia Health primary care clinics participating in a large, National Cancer Institute-funded study on a cancer prevention clinical decision support (CDS) tool. The survey assessed PCP demographics, perceptions of the EMR's ability to help assess and manage patients' cancer risk, and experience and comfort level discussing cancer screening and prevention with patients. RESULTS: In these predominantly rural clinics, only 49% of PCPs thought the EMR was well integrated to help assess and manage cancer risk. Both advanced care practitioners and physicians agreed that cancer screening and informed discussion of cancer risks are important; however, only 53% reported their patients gave cancer screening a high priority relative to other health issues. CONCLUSIONS: The impact of EMR-linked CDS delivered to both patients and PCPs may improve cancer screening, but only if it is easy to use and saves PCPs time.