Apoptosis is defined by a distinct set of morphological changes observed during cell death including loss of focal adhesions, the formation of cell membrane buds or blebs, and a decrease in total cell volume. Recent studies suggest that these dramatic morphological changes, particularly apoptotic volume decrease (AVD), are an early prerequisite to apoptosis and precede key biochemical time-points. Here we use atomic force microscopy to observe early stage AVD of KB cells undergoing staurosporine-induced apoptosis. After a 3-h exposure to 1 μM staurosporine, a 32% decrease in total cell height and a 50% loss of total cell volume is observed accompanied by only a 15% change in cell diameter. The observed AVD precedes key biochemical hallmarks of apoptosis such as loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, phosphatidyl serine translocation, nuclear fragmentation, and measurable caspase-3 activity. This suggests that morphological volume changes occur very early in the induction of apoptosis.