Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are a family of zinc dependent extracellular matrix (ECM) remodellingendopeptidases having the ability to degrade almost all components of extracellular matrix and implicatedin various physiological as well as pathological processes. Carcinogenesis is a multistage process in whichalteration of the microenvironment is required for conversion of normal tissue to a tumour. Extracellular matrixremodelling proteinases such as MMPs are principal mediators of alterations observed in the microenvironmentduring carcinogenesis and according to recent concepts not only have roles in invasion or late stages of cancerbut also in regulating initial steps of carcinogenesis in a favourable or unfavourable manner. Establishmentof relationships between MMP overproduction and cancer progression has stimulated the development ofinhibitors that block proteolytic activity of these enzymes. In this review we discuss the MMP general structure,classification, regulation roles in relation to hallmarks of cancer and as targets for therapeutic intervention.