Vanadium, a dietary micronutrient, is yet to be established as an essential part of the human diet. Over the past century, several biological effects of vanadium, such as insulin-mimetic action as well as amelioration of hyperlipidemia and hypertension, have been discovered. This transition element is known to influence a battery of enzymatic systems, namely phosphatases, ATPases, peroxidases, ribonucleases, protein kinases and oxidoreductases. Multiple biochemical and molecular actions of vanadium have been implicated in its inhibitory effects on various tumor cells of human origin. Successful in vitro studies over the past few decades have advanced the anticancer research on vanadium into the preclinical stage. Vanadium in several animal cancer models provides protection against all stages of carcinogenesis--initiation, promotion, and progression. This review focuses on the current advances in cancer prevention and treatment as well as early detection by vanadium compounds in preclinical animal models while pointing to possible mechanisms of such diverse beneficial effects. Clinical pharmacokinetic and potential toxicity studies on vanadium are also highlighted in this review. Supporting and challenging evidence as well as future directions of vanadium research exploring the possibility of using this dietary agent for detection, prevention and treatment of human cancers are critically discussed.