Several epidemiological and animal studies have suggested that polyphenols, a group of secondary plant metabolites occurring mainly in the plant kingdom, may have a protective effect against some chronic degenerative diseases such as cancer. Polyphenols are part of the human diet, being present in vegetal food and beverages. Among them, an olive biophenol named hydroxytyrosol [2-(3,4- dihydroxyphenyl)ethanol, HTyr] has recently received particular attention because of its antioxidant, antiproliferative, pro-apoptotic, and anti-inflammatory activities, which have the potential to specifically counteract all cancer hallmarks, thus representing the expectant biological activities underlying the anti-tumor properties of this polyphenol. After a description of the synthetic procedures to prepare pure HTyr, this review takes into consideration the chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic potential of HTyr as the result of its antioxidant, antiproliferative and anti-inflammatory activities. In particular, the review is focused on the current knowledge of the main cellular and molecular mechanisms used by HTyr to affect carcinogenesis, highlighting the specific oncogenic and inflammatory signaling pathways potentially targeted by HTyr.