Macrophage inhibitory cytokine-1 (MIC-1/GDF15) is associated with cardiovascular disease, inflammation, body weight regulation and cancer. Its serum levels facilitate the diagnosis and prognosis of cancer and vascular disease. Furthermore, its serum levels are a powerful predictor of all-cause mortality, suggesting a fundamental role in biological processes associated with ageing. In cancer, the data available suggest that MIC-1/GDF15 is antitumorigenic, but this may not always be the case as disease progresses. Cancer promoting effects of MIC-1/GDF15 may be due, in part, to effects on antitumour immunity. This is suggested by the anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties of MIC-1/GDF15 in animal models of atherosclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Furthermore, in late-stage cancer, large amounts of MIC-1/GDF15 in the circulation suppress appetite and mediate cancer anorexia/cachexia, which can be reversed by monoclonal antibodies in animals. Available data suggest MIC-1/GDF15 may be an important molecule mediating the interplay between cancer, obesity and chronic inflammation.