Cancer is a disease characterized by genomic instability. Comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) is a technique designed for detecting segmental genomic alterations. Recent advances in array-based CGH technology have enabled examination of chromosomal regions in unprecedented detail, revolutionizing our understanding of tumour genomes. A number of array-based technologies have been developed, aiming to improve the resolution of CGH, enabling researchers to refine and define regions in the genome that may be causal to cancer, and facilitating gene discovery at a rapid rate. This article reviews the various array CGH platforms and their use in the study of cancer genomes. In addition, the need for high-resolution analysis is discussed as well as the importance of studying early-stage disease to discover genetic alterations that may be causal to cancer progression and aetiology.