Dysregulated expression of microRNAs (miRNAs) in various tissues has been associated with a variety of diseases, including cancers. Here we demonstrate that miRNAs are present in the serum and plasma of humans and other animals such as mice, rats, bovine fetuses, calves, and horses. The levels of miRNAs in serum are stable, reproducible, and consistent among individuals of the same species. Employing Solexa, we sequenced all serum miRNAs of healthy Chinese subjects and found over 100 and 91 serum miRNAs in male and female subjects, respectively. We also identified specific expression patterns of serum miRNAs for lung cancer, colorectal cancer, and diabetes, providing evidence that serum miRNAs contain fingerprints for various diseases. Two non-small cell lung cancer-specific serum miRNAs obtained by Solexa were further validated in an independent trial of 75 healthy donors and 152 cancer patients, using quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction assays. Through these analyses, we conclude that serum miRNAs can serve as potential biomarkers for the detection of various cancers and other diseases.