Autophagy, one of two major intracellular degradation pathways, plays a critical role in energy homeostasis and the quality control of macromolecules and intracellular organelles. Previous work has demonstrated the importance of autophagy in maintaining cellular fitness, both in healthy and stressful conditions, revealing the complex interplay between autophagy and other stress-responsive phenotypes. The complex outcomes of stress-responsive autophagy confer on it both pro- and anti-tumourigenic roles, depending on the cellular and environmental context. Furthermore, recent findings that functionally link autophagy to the tumour suppressor mechanism, cellular senescence, have revealed a new role of autophagy in cancer biology. In this review we summarise the current evidence on the relationship between autophagy and cancer, with a focus on its role in senescence.