Iron is an essential nutrient that facilitates cell proliferation and growth. However, iron also has the capacity to engage in redox cycling and free radical formation. Therefore, iron can contribute to both tumour initiation and tumour growth; recent work has also shown that iron has a role in the tumour microenvironment and in metastasis. Pathways of iron acquisition, efflux, storage and regulation are all perturbed in cancer, suggesting that reprogramming of iron metabolism is a central aspect of tumour cell survival. Signalling through hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) and WNT pathways may contribute to altered iron metabolism in cancer. Targeting iron metabolic pathways may provide new tools for cancer prognosis and therapy.