Noncoding Y RNAs have recently been identified as essential factors for chromosomal DNA replication in human cell nuclei. Here, we investigate the expression of human Y RNAs in tumours and test their requirement for cell proliferation. Relative expression levels of all four human Y RNAs (hY1, hY3, hY4 and hY5 RNA) were determined by quantitative RT-PCR in extracts from human solid tumours, corresponding nonmalignant normal tissues and derived cultured cells. On average, all four hY RNAs are significantly overexpressed in solid tumours between 4- and 13-fold, compared to the corresponding normal tissues. In particular, hY1 and hY3 RNAs are overexpressed in carcinomas (and adenocarcinomas) of the bladder, cervix, colon, kidney, lung and prostate with extremely high statistical significance (ANOVA, between groups, P<10e-22). A functional requirement of all four hY RNAs for cell proliferation was investigated in a systematic survey for loss-of-function by RNA interference (RNAi). Degradation of hY1 and hY3 RNAs in human cell lines resulted in a significant cytostatic inhibition of cell proliferation. We conclude that noncoding hY RNAs have potential both as new cancer biomarkers and as molecular targets for anti-proliferative intervention.