The p16INK4a tumor suppressor protein functions as an inhibitor of CDK4 and CDK6, the D-type cyclin-dependent kinases that initiate the phosphorylation of the retinoblastoma tumor suppressor protein, RB. Thus, p16INK4a has the capacity to arrest cells in the G1-phase of the cell cycle and its probable physiological role is in the implementation of irreversible growth arrest termed cellular senescence. Cellular senescence is a state of permanent growth arrest that can be induced by a variety of stresses such as DNA-damage and aberrant mitogenic signaling in human primary cells. In contrast to normal cells, the function of the p16INK4a gene or its downstream mediators is frequently deregulated in many types of human cancers, illustrating the importance of cellular senescence in tumor suppression. Here we discuss the molecular mechanisms that direct cellular senescence and reveal its potential for tumor suppression.