Cystatin C is a low-molecular-weight protein which has been proposed as a marker of renal function that could replace creatinine. Indeed, the concentration of cystatin C is mainly determined by glomerular filtration and is particularly of interest in clinical settings where the relationship between creatinine production and muscle mass impairs the clinical performance of creatinine. Since the last decade, numerous studies have evaluated its potential use in measuring renal function in various populations. More recently, other potential developments for its clinical use have emerged. This review summarises current knowledge about the physiology of cystatin C and about its use as a renal marker, either alone or in equations developed to estimate the glomerular filtration rate. This paper also reviews recent data about the other applications of cystatin C, particularly in cardiology, oncology and clinical pharmacology.