Epigenetic alterations in cancer include changes in DNA methylation and associated histone modifications that influence the chromatin states and impact gene expression patterns. Due to recent technological advantages, the scientific community is now obtaining a better picture of the genome-wide epigenetic changes that occur in a cancer genome. These epigenetic alterations are associated with chromosomal instability and changes in transcriptional control which influence the overall gene expression differences seen in many human malignancies. In this review, we will briefly summarize our current knowledge of the epigenetic patterns and mechanisms of gene regulation in healthy tissues and relate this to what is known for cancer genomes. Our focus will be on DNA methylation. We will review the current standing of technologies that have been developed over recent years. This field is experiencing a revolution in the strategies used to measure epigenetic alterations, which includes the incorporation of next generation sequencing tools. We also will review strategies that utilize epigenetic information for translational purposes, with a special emphasis on the potential use of DNA methylation marks for early disease detection and prognosis. The review will close with an outlook on challenges that this field is facing.