Upon DNA double-strand break (DSB) induction in mammals, the histone H2A variant, H2AX, becomes rapidly phosphorylated at serine 139. This modified form, termed gamma-H2AX, is easily identified with antibodies and serves as a sensitive indicator of DNA DSB formation. This review focuses on the potential clinical applications of gamma-H2AX detection in cancer and in response to other cellular stresses. In addition, the role of H2AX in homeostasis and disease will be discussed. Recent work indicates that gamma-H2AX detection may become a powerful tool for monitoring genotoxic events associated with cancer development and tumor progression.