Germline variants have a rich history of being studied in the context of cancer risk. Emerging studies now suggest that germline variants contribute not only to cancer risk but to tumor progression as well. In this opinion article, we discuss the initial discoveries associating germline variants with patient outcome and the mechanisms by which germline variants affect molecular pathways. Germline variants affect molecular pathways through amino acid changes, alteration of splicing patterns or expression of genes, influencing the selection for somatic mutations, and causing genome-wide mutational enrichment. These molecular alterations can lead to tumor phenotypes that become clinically apparent such as metastasis, alterations to the immune microenvironment, and modulation of therapeutic response. Overall, the growing body of evidence suggests that germline variants play a larger role in tumor progression than has been previously appreciated and that germline variation holds substantial potential for improving personalized medicine and patient outcomes.