Ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal hydrolase L1 (UCH-L1, aka PGP9.5) is an abundant, neuronal deubiquitinating enzyme that has also been suggested to possess E3 ubiquitin-protein ligase activity and/or stabilize ubiquitin monomers in vivo. Recent evidence implicates dysregulation of UCH-L1 in the pathogenesis and progression of human cancers. Although typically only expressed in neurons, high levels of UCH-L1 have been found in many nonneuronal tumors, including breast, colorectal, and pancreatic carcinomas. UCH-L1 has also been implicated in the regulation of metastasis and cell growth during the progression of nonsmall cell lung carcinoma, colorectal cancer, and lymphoma. Together these studies suggest UCH-L1 has a potent oncogenic role and drives tumor development. Conversely, others have observed promoter methylation-mediated silencing of UCH-L1 in certain tumor subtypes, suggesting a potential tumor suppressor role for UCH-L1. In this paper, we provide an overview of the evidence supporting the involvement of UCH-L1 in tumor development and discuss the potential mechanisms of action of UCH-L1 in oncogenesis.