A fundamental aspect of cancer is dysregulated cell cycle control. Unlike normal cells that only proliferate when compelled to do so by developmental or other mitogenic signals in response to tissue growth needs, the proliferation of cancer cells proceeds essentially unchecked. This does not mean that cancer cell cycles are necessarily different from those found in normal cycling cells, but rather implies that cancer cells proliferate because they are no longer subject to proliferation-inhibitory influences arising from the stroma or from gene expression pattern changes consequent to 'terminal' differentiation, nor do they necessarily require extrinsic growth factors to recruit them into or maintain their proliferative state. Finally, cancer cells have also often avoided normal controls linked to cell cycle progression that halt proliferation in the presence of damaged DNA or other physiological insults. The result of these alterations is the inappropriate proliferation commonly associated with cancerous tumor formation. This review will summarize the current understanding of dysregulation of the G0/G1-to-S-phase transition in cancer cells, with particular emphasis on recent in vivo studies that suggest a need to rethink existing models of cell cycle control in development and tumorigenesis.