Abstract Evidence for the role of the cannabimimetic fatty acid derivatives (CFADs), i.e. anandamide (arachidonoylethanolamide, AEA), 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) and palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), in the control of inflammation and of the proliferation of tumor cells is reviewed here. The biosynthesis of AEA, PEA, or 2-AG can be induced by stimulation with either Ca 2+ ionophores, lipopolysaccharide, or platelet activating factor in macrophages, and by ionomycin or antigen challenge in rat basophilic leukemia (RBL-2H3) cells (a widely used model for mast cells). These cells also inactivate CFADs through re-uptake and/or hydrolysis and/or esterification processes. AEA and PEA modulate cytokine and/or arachidonate release from macrophages in vitro, regulate serotonin secretion from RBL-2H3 cells, and are analgesic in some animal models of inflammatory pain. However, the involvement of endogenous CFADs and cannabinoid CB 1 and CB 2 receptors in these effects is still controversial. In human breast and prostate cancer cells, AEA and 2-AG, but not PEA, potently inhibit prolactin and/or nerve growth factor (NGF)-induced cell proliferation. Vanillyl-derivatives of anandamide, such as olvanil and arvanil, exhibit even higher anti-proliferative activity. These effects are due to suppression of the levels of the 100 kDa prolactin receptor or of the high affinity NGF receptors ( trk), are mediated by CB 1–like cannabinoid receptors, and are enhanced by other CFADs. Inhibition of adenylyl cyclase and activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase underlie the anti-mitogenic actions of AEA. The possibility that CFADs act as local inhibitors of the proliferation of human breast cancer is discussed here.