The prime objective for every life form is to deliver its genetic material, intact and unchanged, to the next generation. This must be achieved despite constant assaults by endogenous and environmental agents on the DNA. To counter this threat, life has evolved several systems to detect DNA damage, signal its presence and mediate its repair. Such responses, which have an impact on a wide range of cellular events, are biologically significant because they prevent diverse human diseases. Our improving understanding of DNA-damage responses is providing new avenues for disease management.