Radiation therapy is a staple cancer treatment approach that has significantly improved local disease control and the overall survival of cancer patients. However, its efficacy is still limited by the development of radiation resistance and the presence of residual disease after therapy that leads to cancer recurrence. Radiation impedes cancer cell growth by inducing cytotoxicity, mainly caused by DNA damage. However, radiation can also simultaneously induce multiple pro-survival signaling pathways, such as those mediated by AKT, ERK and ATM/ATR, which can lead to suppression of apoptosis, induction of cell cycle arrest and/or initiation of DNA repair. These signaling pathways act conjointly to reduce the magnitude of radiation-induced cytotoxicity and promote the development of radioresistance in cancer cells. Thus, targeting these pro-survival pathways has great potential for the radiosensitization of cancer cells. In the present review, we summarize the current literature on how these radiation‑activated signaling pathways promote cancer cell survival.