Activating Transcription Factor-2 is a sequence-specific DNA-binding protein that belongs to the bZIP family of proteins and plays diverse roles in the mammalian cells. In response to stress stimuli, it activates a variety of gene targets including cyclin A, cyclin D and c-jun, which are involved in oncogenesis in various tissue types. ATF-2 expression has been correlated with maintenance of a cancer cell phenotype. However, other studies demonstrate an antiproliferative or apoptotic role for ATF-2. In this review, we summarize the signaling pathways that activate ATF-2, as well as its downstream targets. We examine the role of ATF-2 in carcinogenesis with respect to other bZIP proteins, using data from studies in human cancer cell lines, human tumours and mouse models, and we propose a potential model for its function in carcinogenesis, as well as a theoretical basis for its utility in anticancer drug design.