BACKGROUND Community-based participatory research (CBPR) approaches that involve community and academic partners in activities ranging from protocol design through dissemination of study findings can increase recruitment of medically underserved and underrepresented racial/ethnic minority populations into biomedical research. METHODS Five cancer screening and prevention trials in three National Cancer Institute (Bethesda, MD)-funded Community Networks Program Centers (CNPC), in Florida, Kansas, and South Carolina, were conducted across diverse populations. Data were collected on total time period of recruitment, ratios of participants enrolled over potential participants approached, selected CBPR strategies, capacity-building development, and systematic procedures for community stakeholder involvement. RESULTS Community-engaged approaches used included establishing colearning opportunities, participatory procedures for community-academic involvement, and community and clinical capacity building. A relatively large proportion of individuals identified for recruitment was actually approached (between 50% and 100%). The proportion of subjects who were eligible among all those approached ranged from 25% to more than 70% (in the community setting). Recruitment rates were very high (78%-100% of eligible individuals approached) and the proportion who refused or who were not interested among those approached was very low (5%-11%). CONCLUSIONS Recruitment strategies used by the CNPCs were associated with low refusal and high enrollment ratios of potential subjects. Adherence to CBPR principles in the spectrum of research activities, from strategic planning to project implementation, has significant potential to increase involvement in biomedical research and improve our ability to make appropriate recommendations for cancer prevention and control programming in underrepresented diverse populations. IMPACT CBPR strategies should be more widely implemented to enhance study recruitment.