Tumors are like new organs and are made of multiple cell types and components. The tumor competes with the normal microenvironment to overcome antitumorigenic pressures. Before that battle is won, the tumor may exist within the organ unnoticed by the host, referred to as 'occult cancer'. We review how normal tissue homeostasis and architecture inhibit progression of cancer and how changes in the microenvironment can shift the balance of these signals to the procancerous state. We also include a discussion of how this information is being tailored for clinical use.