This study is the first study to investigate the anticancer effect of 6-shogaol in human non-small cell lung cancer A549 cells. 6-Shogaol inhibited cell proliferation by inducing autophagic cell death, but not, predominantly, apoptosis. Pretreatment of cells with 3-methyladenine (3-MA), an autophagy inhibitor, suppressed 6-shogaol mediated antiproliferation activity, suggesting that induction of autophagy by 6-shogaol is conducive to cell death. We also found that 6-shogaol inhibited survival signaling through the AKT/mTOR signaling pathway by blocking the activation of AKT and downstream targets, including the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), forkhead transcription factors (FKHR) and glycogen synthase kinase-3beta (GSK-3beta). Phosphorylation of both of mTOR's downstream targets, p70 ribosomal protein S6 kinase (p70S6 kinase) and 4E-BP1, was also diminished. Overexpression of AKT by AKT cDNA transfection decreased 6-shogaol mediated autophagic cell death, supporting inhibition of AKT beneficial to autophagy. Moreover, reduction of AKT expression by siRNA potentiated 6-shogaol's effect, also supporting inhibition of AKT beneficial to autophagy. Taken together, these findings suggest that 6-shogaol may be a promising chemopreventive agent against human non-small cell lung cancer.