During the cell cycle, the order of events is maintained by controls termed checkpoints. Two checkpoints are sensitive to DNA damage, one that acts before mitosis and a second that acts before DNA replication. This is relevant to cancer because checkpoint mutants show genetic instability, and such instability is characteristic of many cancers. Studies of checkpoints in normal and cancer cells suggest a mechanistic relationship to the central cell cycle control p34CDC2 and its regulators. We suggest how mutations in these genes and those with a role in DNA metabolism may affect the function of checkpoints. A further link between checkpoints and cancer may be the p53 protein, which appears to function at the G1-S checkpoint. Consideration of checkpoints may provide more effective means for cancer treatment.