Glycans, chains of sugar molecules found conjugated to cell proteins and lipids, contribute to their growth, movement and differentiation. Aberrant glycosylation is a hallmark of several medical conditions including tumorigenesis. Glycosphingolipids (GSLs), consisting of glycans conjugated to a lipid (ceramide) core, are found in the lipid bilayer of eukaryotic cell membranes. GSLs, play an active role in cell processes. Several GSLs are expressed by human embryonic stem cells and have been found to be overexpressed in several types of cancer. In this review, we discuss the data, hypotheses and perspectives related to the GSLs Globo H and SSEA-4.