In recent years human and animal cancers have increasingly been shown to have a viral component in their aetiology. Oncogenic viruses will continue to be discovered although with certain cancers there is also an important environmental component, and with others--congenital cancers and cancers of early childhood--an important genetic component. There is thus the probability that 'cancer' may not be an entity. Rather it may be a syndrome, the phenotypic expression of alteration of cellular metabolism, differentiation and cell death. More information is needed on the mathematics of cell division and destruction, in vivo and in vitro, and the involvement of 'biological clocks', i.e. ageing processes. These data, when available, should help us to understand better the nature of cancer and lead us to more effective methods of prevention and cure.