Biomarkers are quantifiable indicators of disease. These surrogates should be specific, sensitive, predictive, robust and easily accessible. A major class of RNA described as non-coding RNA fulfils many of these criteria, and recent studies have demonstrated that the two major subclasses of non-coding RNA, long non-coding RNA and, in particular, microRNA are promising potential biomarkers. The ability to detect non-coding RNAs in biofluids has highlighted their usefulness as non-invasive markers of lung disease. Because expression of specific non-coding RNAs is altered in many lung diseases and their levels in the circulation often reflect the changes in expression of their lung-specific counterparts, exploiting these biomolecules as diagnostic tools seems an obvious goal. New technology is driving developments in this area and there has been significant recent progress with respect to lung cancer diagnostics. The non-coding RNA biomarker field represents a clear example of modern-day bench-to-bedside research.