Although cancer incidence and mortality rates in the United States and some European countries have started to decrease, those in developing countries are increasing. China, the most populous developing country, is facing a serious challenge from cancer. Cancer incidence has been increasing for decades, and cancer is the leading cause of death in China. In 2012, the cancer incidence was 174.0 per 100,000, and the cancer mortality was 122.2 per 100,000 in China. In addition to the still-prevalent traditional Chinese cancers of the stomach, liver, esophagus, cervix, and nasopharynx, the incidence of "Western" cancers such those of the lung, breast, and colorectum has increased alarmingly in recent years. These increases are likely due to the lifestyle and environmental changes associated with rapid economic development and population aging. More importantly, a large portion of these cancers are preventable. Researchers in China have made important contributions to cancer prevention research, especially in the traditional Chinese cancers. More cancer prevention research and measures, especially on the major emerging cancers, are urgently needed. This review article highlights some of the past achievements and present needs in cancer prevention research in China and suggests important areas for future studies.