In mammalian cells, miRNAs (microRNAs) are the most abundant family of small non-coding RNAs that regulate mRNA translation through the RNA interference pathway. In general, it appears that the major function of miRNAs is in development, differentiation and homoeostasis, which is indicated by studies showing aberrant miRNA expression during the development of cancer. Interestingly, changes in the expression of miR-146a have been implicated in both the development of multiple cancers and in the negative regulation of inflammation induced via the innate immune response. Furthermore, miR-146a expression is driven by the transcription factor NF-kappaB (nuclear factor kappaB), which has been implicated as an important causal link between inflammation and carcinogenesis. In the present article, we review the evidence for a role of miR-146a in innate immunity and cancer and assess whether changes in miR-146a might link these two biological responses.