Whole-body magnetic resonance imaging (WB-MRI) is an imaging method without ionising radiation that can provide WB coverage with a core protocol of essential imaging contrasts in less than 40 minutes, and it can be complemented with sequences to evaluate specific body regions as needed. In many cases, WB-MRI surpasses bone scintigraphy and computed tomography in detecting and characterising lesions, evaluating their response to therapy and in screening of high-risk patients. Consequently, international guidelines now recommend the use of WB-MRI in the management of patients with multiple myeloma, prostate cancer, melanoma and individuals with certain cancer predisposition syndromes. The use of WB-MRI is also growing for metastatic breast cancer, ovarian cancer and lymphoma as well as for cancer screening amongst the general population. In light of the increasing interest from clinicians and patients in WB-MRI as a radiation-free technique for guiding the management of cancer and for cancer screening, we review its technical basis, current international guidelines for its use and key applications.