Positron emission tomography (PET) is now in routine use in oncology, through the success of metabolic imaging, mainly with fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG). Clear benefit is obtained with FDG PET in the assessment of patients with recurrent or residual disease, especially colorectal cancer and lymphoma. Preoperative staging of non-small-cell lung cancer with FDG PET is of proven benefit. Staging and restaging of patients with melanoma of stage II or greater is useful, and FDG PET has also been successfully used to investigate single pulmonary nodules. Tumour grading has been assessed, especially in the brain, but an important and emerging indication is the evaluation of tumour response with PET. Rapid decline of FDG uptake has been observed in responsive cancers. Further advances are being made with other fluorine-18-labelled and generator-based PET tracers, the only ones that can be used in units without dedicated cyclotrons.