A powerful way to discover key genes playing causal roles in oncogenesis is to identify genomic regions that undergo frequent alteration in human cancers. Here, we report high-resolution analyses of somatic copy-number alterations (SCNAs) from 3131 cancer specimens, belonging largely to 26 histological types. We identify 158 regions of focal SCNA that are altered at significant frequency across multiple cancer types, of which 122 cannot be explained by the presence of a known cancer target gene located within these regions. Several gene families are enriched among these regions of focal SCNA, including the BCL2 family of apoptosis regulators and the NF-κB pathway. We show that cancer cells harboring amplifications surrounding the MCL1 and BCL2L1 anti-apoptotic genes depend upon expression of these genes for survival. Finally, we demonstrate that a large majority of SCNAs identified in individual cancer types are present in multiple cancer types.