Oncogenic Ras mutations are widely considered to be locked in a permanent 'On' state and 'constitutively active'. Yet, many healthy people have cells possessing mutant Ras without apparent harm, and in animal models mutant Ras causes transformation only after upregulation of Ras activity. Here, we demonstrate that oncogenic K-Ras is not constitutively active but can be readily activated by upstream stimulants to lead to prolonged strong Ras activity. These data indicate that in addition to targeting K-Ras downstream effectors, interventions to reduce K-Ras activation may have important cancer-preventive value, especially in patients with oncogenic Ras mutations. As other small G proteins are regulated in a similar manner, this concept is likely to apply broadly to the entire Ras family of molecules.