Inflammatory conditions in selected organs increase the risk of cancer. An inflammatory component is present also in the microenvironment of tumors that are not epidemiologically related to inflammation. Recent studies have begun to unravel molecular pathways linking inflammation and cancer. In the tumor microenvironment, smoldering inflammation contributes to proliferation and survival of malignant cells, angiogenesis, metastasis, subversion of adaptive immunity, reduced response to hormones and chemotherapeutic agents. Recent data suggest that an additional mechanism involved in cancer-related inflammation (CRI) is induction of genetic instability by inflammatory mediators, leading to accumulation of random genetic alterations in cancer cells. In a seminal contribution, Hanahan and Weinberg [(2000) Cell, 100, 57-70] identified the six hallmarks of cancer. We surmise that CRI represents the seventh hallmark.