Senescent cells are relatively stable, lacking proliferation capacity yet retaining metabolic activity. In contrast, cancer cells are rather invasive and devastating, with uncontrolled proliferative capacity and resistance to cell death signals. Although tumorigenesis and cellular senescence are seemingly opposite pathological events, they are actually driven by a unified mechanism: DNA damage. Integrity of the DNA damage response (DDR) network can impose a tumorigenesis barrier by navigating abnormal cells to cellular senescence. Compromise of DDR, possibly due to the inactivation of DDR components, may prevent cellular senescence but at the expense of tumor formation. Here we provide an overview of the fundamental role of DDR in tumorigenesis and cellular senescence, under the light of the Yin-Yang concept of Chinese philosophy. Emphasis is placed on discussing DDR outcome in the light of in vivo models. This information is critical as it can help make better decisions for clinical treatments of cancer patients.