Inactivation of the p53 tumor suppressor is a frequent event in tumorigenesis. In most cases, the p53 gene is mutated, giving rise to a stable mutant protein whose accumulation is regarded as a hallmark of cancer cells. Mutant p53 proteins not only lose their tumor suppressive activities but often gain additional oncogenic functions that endow cells with growth and survival advantages. Interestingly, mutations in the p53 gene were shown to occur at different phases of the multistep process of malignant transformation, thus contributing differentially to tumor initiation, promotion, aggressiveness, and metastasis. Here, the authors review the different studies on the involvement of p53 inactivation at various stages of tumorigenesis and highlight the specific contribution of p53 mutations at each phase of cancer progression.