The aim of this study was to determine the factors influencing stress in health care professionals working with cancer patients and the strategies used to cope with stress. The data was collected by self-report questionnaires, the Job Stress Inventory and Ways of Coping Inventory. Overall 109 health care professionals (physicians n=52, nurses n=57) employed in five Oncology Hospitals in Ankara, Turkey, between January 2001 and July 2001 were involved in the study. It was identified that the mean job stress score of health care professionals was 30.76 (physicians=30.53, nurses=31.00) (range=0-50). This stress level indicated that there were signs of physical and psychological stress. It was determined that variables influencing stress scores were marital status, age, professional career, unfairness in promotion opportunities, imbalance between jobs and responsibilities, conflict with colleagues, lack of appreciation of efforts by superiors, responsibilities of role, long and tiring work hours, inadequacy of equipment, and problems experienced with patients and their relatives. It was also determined that health care professionals utilize similar strategies in order to cope with stress. The most common strategy used by physicians and nurses was a self-confident approach (x̄=1.89 and 1.82 respectively), and the strategy least used was a submissive approach (respectively, x̄=1.03 and 0.85). Programmes directed towards reducing job stress and enhancing motivation and job satisfaction were recently considered by health institutions. It is thought that the findings of the study could be taken into account in preparing programmes (coping with stress, training) for health care professionals working with cancer patients. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.