Cancer cells activate the biosynthesis of saturated fatty acids (SFA) and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) in order to sustain an increasing demand for phospholipids with appropriate acyl composition during cell replication. We have previously shown that a stable knockdown of stearoyl-CoA desaturase 1 (SCD1), the main Δ9-desaturase that converts SFA into MUFA, in cancer cells decreases the rate of lipogenesis, reduces proliferation and in vitro invasiveness, and dramatically impairs tumor formation and growth. Here we report that pharmacological inhibition of SCD1 with a novel small molecule in cancer cells promoted the activation of AMP-activated kinase (AMPK) and the subsequent reduction of acetylCoA carboxylase activity, with a concomitant inhibition of glucose-mediated lipogenesis. The pharmacological inhibition of AMPK further decreased proliferation of SCD1-depleted cells, whereas AMPK activation restored proliferation to control levels. Addition of supraphysiological concentrations of glucose or pyruvate, the end product of glycolysis, did not reverse the low proliferation rate of SCD1-ablated cancer cells. Our data suggest that cancer cells require active SCD1 to control the rate of glucose-mediated lipogenesis, and that when SCD1 activity is impaired cells downregulate SFA synthesis via AMPK-mediated inactivation of acetyl-CoA carboxylase, thus preventing the harmful effects of SFA accumulation.