Since human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are therapeutically attractive for tissue regeneration and repair, we examined the physiological responses of human umbilical cord blood-derived MSCs (hUCB-MSCs) to genotoxic stress. We found that that sublethal doses of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and ionizing radiation cause DNA damage and reduce DNA synthesis and cell proliferation in hUCB-MSCs, resulting in cellular senescence. In contrast, these physiological changes were limited in human fibroblast and cancer cells. Our data show that reduced activities of antioxidant enzymes, which may occur due to low gene expression levels, cause hUCB-MSCs to undergo cellular senescence in response to oxidative stress and ionizing radiation. Resistance of hUCB-MSCs to oxidative stresses was restored by increasing the intracellular antioxidant activity in hUCB-MSCs via exogenous addition of antioxidants. Therefore, the proliferation and fate of hUCB-MSCs can be controlled by exposure to oxidative stresses.