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The present study explored the effect that deoxycytidine kinase (DCK) knockdown had on proliferation, apoptosis and tumorigenicity in vivo of cervical cancer HeLa cells. Human cervical cancer HeLa cells that had received no prior treatment were selected from the HeLa group. The HeLa-negative control (NC) group consisted of cells that had undergone an empty vector treatment, and finally the HeLa-short hairpin RNA (shRNA) group included cells that were treated by means of shRNA-DCK expression. DCK expressions were evaluated by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction in addition to western blotting assays. Cell proliferation was estimated using the Cell Counting Kit-8 (CCK-8) assay and cell cycle progression. Cell apoptosis was determined by flow cytometry. BALB/c nude mice (n = 24) were selected to establish transplanted tumor models, with gross tumor volume measured every 3 days. The results in vitro were as follows: compared with the HeLa group, the HeLa-shRNA group exhibited downregulation of DCK expression and inhibition of cell proliferation at 48, 72 and 96 h. Additionally, more cells in the HeLa-shRNA group were arrested in G0/G1 stage and less in S and G2/M stages, as well as in promotion of cell apoptosis. In vivo results are as follows: when comparing the HeLa and HeLa-NC groups, the gross tumor volume of the transplanted tumor in nude mice in the HeLa-shRNA group was found to have decreased in 13, 16, 19 and 22 days. Based on these findings, our study suggests that DCK knockdown facilitates apoptosis while inhibiting proliferation and tumorigenicity in vivo of cervical cancer HeLa cells.