Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC) is one of the most common skin malignant tumors with an increasing incidence. Studies have shown that Yes-associated protein (YAP) participates in the development of a variety of tumors as an oncogene, but to our knowledge its role in cSCC has not been reported. In this study, we used immunohistochemistry to show that YAP expression was elevated in cSCC samples of different stages versus in normal skin and that it was well correlated with the progression of the disease. Down-regulation of YAP in cSCC cell lines A431 and SCL-1 inhibited cell proliferation by inducing growth arrest during the G1/S phase transition, promoted apoptosis, and reduced invasion and migration abilities in vitro. Conversely, overexpression of YAP promoted cell proliferation and protected cells against basal and chemotherapy-induced apoptosis. These oncogenic effects of YAP were associated with activation of the RAS protein and its downstream AKT and ERK. Using a mouse xenograft model, we further showed that YAP depletion inhibited cSCC tumor growth in vivo. Our results suggested that YAP is involved in the carcinogenesis and development of cSCC and that it may serve as a biomarker or therapeutic target of this disease.