Cancer is an age-related disease in organisms with renewable tissues. A malignant tumor arises in part from genomic damage, which can also drive age-related degeneration. However, cancer differs from many age-related degenerative diseases in that it entails gain-of-function changes that confer new (albeit aberrant) properties on cells, resulting in vigorous cell proliferation and survival. Nonetheless, interventions that delay age-related degeneration – for example, caloric restriction or dampened insulin/IGF-1 signaling – often also delay cancer. How then is the development of cancer linked to aging? The answer to this question is complex, as suggested by recent findings. This Hot Topic review discusses some of these findings, including how genomic damage might alter cellular properties without conferring mutations, and how some genes that regulate lifespan in organisms that lack renewable tissues might affect the development of cancer in mammals.