Many oncogenes, growth factor, cytokine and cell-cycle genes are regulated post-transcriptionally. The major mechanism is by controlling the rate of mRNA turnover for transcripts bearing destabilizing cis-elements. To date, only a handful of regulatory factors have been identified that appear to control a large pool of target mRNAs, suggesting that a slight perturbation in the control mechanism may generate wide-ranging effects that could contribute to the development of a complex disorder such as cancer. In support of this view, mRNA turnover responds to signalling pathways that are often overactive in cancer, suggesting a post-transcriptional component in addition to the well-recognised transcriptional aspect of oncogenesis. Here the authors review examples of deregulated post-transcriptional control in oncogenesis, discuss post-transcriptionally regulated transcripts of oncologic significance, and consider the key role of signalling pathways in linking both processes and as an enticing therapeutic prospect.