The characteristic blue glow of Cerenkov luminescence (CL) arises from the interaction between a charged particle travelling faster than the phase velocity of light and a dielectric medium, such as water or tissue. As CL emanates from a variety of sources, such as cosmic events, particle accelerators, nuclear reactors and clinical radionuclides, it has been used in applications such as particle detection, dosimetry, and medical imaging and therapy. The combination of CL and nanoparticles for biomedicine has improved diagnosis and therapy, especially in oncological research. Although radioactive decay itself cannot be easily modulated, the associated CL can be through the use of nanoparticles, thus offering new applications in biomedical research. Advances in nanoparticles, metamaterials and photonic crystals have also yielded new behaviours of CL. Here, we review the physics behind Cerenkov luminescence and associated applications in biomedicine. We also show that by combining advances in nanotechnology and materials science with CL, new avenues for basic and applied sciences have opened.