The mechanisms of tumor suppression must be linked to the oncogenic threats that may affect a normal cell. An important cancer causing mechanism is the accidental activation of genes that stimulate cell proliferation (oncogenes) by a variety of endogenous or environmental mutagens. This event has been experimentally modelled by enforcing the expression of oncogenes in primary cells. The astonishing outcome of these manipulations is that oncogenes trigger antiproliferative responses preventing progression to malignant transformation. These responses bring to an end proliferation due to cell death or a permanent cell cycle arrest called senescence. Here we review evidence indicating that oncogene induced senescence (OIS) involves activation of p53 via the DNA damage response (DDR). These results imply mechanisms of DNA damage in cells expressing oncogenes, that may be secondary to reactive oxygen species and/or some form of "oncogenic stress" that affect normal DNA replication. Interestingly, DNA damage signals persist in cells that escape from senescence. The implications of these signals for tumorigenesis are also discussed. Given that DNA damage signals have now been observed in cells treated with any stimuli known to induce senescence, the process can be redefined as a metabolically viable but permanent cell cycle arrest with persistent DNA damage signaling.