The mRNA translation machinery is tightly regulated through several, at times overlapping, mechanisms that modulate its efficiency and accuracy. Due to their fast rate of growth and metabolism, cancer cells require an excessive amount of mRNA translation and protein synthesis. However, unfavorable conditions, such as hypoxia, amino acid starvation, and oxidative stress, which are abundant in cancer, as well as many anti-cancer treatments inhibit mRNA translation. Cancer cells adapt to the various internal and environmental stresses by employing specialised transcript-specific translation to survive and gain a proliferative advantage. We will highlight the major signaling pathways and mechanisms of translation that regulate the global or mRNA-specific translation in response to the intra- or extra-cellular signals and stresses that are key components in the process of tumourigenesis.