During cell division, replication of the genomic DNA is performed by high-fidelity DNA polymerases but these error-free enzymes can not synthesize across damaged DNA. Specialized DNA polymerases, so called DNA translesion synthesis polymerases (TLS polymerases), can replicate damaged DNA thereby avoiding replication fork breakdown and subsequent chromosomal instability.We focus on the involvement of mammalian TLS polymerases in DNA damage tolerance mechanisms. In detail, we review the discovery of TLS polymerases and describe the molecular features of all the mammalian TLS polymerases identified so far. We give a short overview of the mechanisms that regulate the selectivity and activity of TLS polymerases. In addition, we summarize the current knowledge how different types of DNA damage, relevant either for the induction or treatment of cancer, are bypassed by TLS polymerases. Finally, we elucidate the relevance of TLS polymerases in the context of cancer therapy.