Survival improves when cancer is detected early. However, ~50% of cancers are at an advanced stage when diagnosed. Early detection of cancer or precancerous change allows early intervention to try to slow or prevent cancer development and lethality. To achieve early detection of all cancers, numerous challenges must be overcome. It is vital to better understand who is at greatest risk of developing cancer. We also need to elucidate the biology and trajectory of precancer and early cancer to identify consequential disease that requires intervention. Insights must be translated into sensitive and specific early detection technologies and be appropriately evaluated to support practical clinical implementation. Interdisciplinary collaboration is key; advances in technology and biological understanding highlight that it is time to accelerate early detection research and transform cancer survival.