The carbonic anhydrases (CAs) comprise a family of evolutionarily ancient enzymes found ubiquitously in nature. They have important roles in facilitating transport of carbon dioxide and protons in the intracellular space, across biological membranes and in the unstirred layers of the extracellular space. The tumour-associated isoenzymes, CAIX and CAXII, are expressed in a wide variety of malignancies and appear to be tightly regulated by microenvironmental hypoxia. CAIX expression is linked to poor prognosis in a number of human tumours, and may be a marker of aggressive malignant phenotype and a mechanism of progression. Inhibitors of CA may inhibit tumour growth and invasion, with consequent therapeutic potential.