Among clinicians who use positron emission tomography (PET), the standardized uptake value (SUV) is a popular semi-quantitative value that can be easily assessed whenever a PET study is performed under physiological and pathological conditions. It provides an index of regional tracer uptake normalized to the administered dose of tracer. The simplicity of SUV assessment contrasts with the complexity of full quantitative procedures requiring blood sampling and possibly dynamic scanning, which limits patient throughput and significantly increases the workload of a PET centre. Two main clinical conditions/variables affect the significance and usefulness of the SUV: the type and stage of the disease being assessed. Diagnosis, prognosis and therapy monitoring represent the possible uses of SUV. In the above clinical conditions an SUV may provide information about the single lesion in which it is assessed, but the utility of such information depends largely on its integration with all the available clinical and instrumental data.