The most common cancers affecting humankind are (in order):

For men: prostate cancer (most don't die from it, but die with it), lung cancer, colo-rectal cancer.

For women: lung cancer, breast cancer, colo-rectal cancer

Overall, cancers of the prostate, the breast, the lung, and the colon and rectum -- in that order -- have the highest incidence among the U.S. population.

These figures are for the U.S. and probably are totally different in undeveloped countries.

the crab

     /   _`.
    (_) ( )
   '.    /

quality: cardinal
element: water
ruled by: the moon
The fourth sign in Western Astrology. A Cardinal sign, a feminine sign, a water sign, an emotional sign. The crab is a strange elusive creature, facing obstacles from the sides instead of confronting them head on. Their fuel is generally their emotions, their histories, their tenacity. Mothering, unpredictable, highly mysterious, very often nonverbal, they communicate through what they feel and the surrounding vibes of their environment. They can be either extrememly creative, dabbling in painting, acting, or writing, but they also have the capabilities of being very technically minded. Cunning, highly sympathetic, loyal, and rarely what you originally perceived.

Their colors are white, light blue, purple and green. Their stone is the either the pearl or the alexandrite. Their parts of the body are the breasts, the stomach, and the ribcage. Their planet is the moon, which makes them the total romantics of the zodiac. Their herb is jasmine. Their tarot card is The Chariot, with some dealings with The High Priestess. Famous leaders in history: Julius Caesar ....and King Henry VIII.

windigo would like to make the disclaimer that she too is a crab.

In Latin, cancer is the word for crab. The image of the crab inspired the first appliction of the word to the disease. The ancient physician Galen (129-199 BC) coined the term when he wrote: "Just as a crab's feet extend from every part of the body, so in this disease the veins are distended, forming a similar figure."

(June 22nd to July 22nd)
The Crab
Colours: Silver, Cerulean blue and sea-green. Silver and smoky green are the colours of the moon, ruler of Cancer.
Stones: Pearl and Moonstone.
Metals: Silver
Trees: Willow, Spruce and pear trees.
Flowers: Daisy, acanthus and iris.
Countries: Holland, Paraguay and Scotland.
Cities: Manchester, Amsterdam and New York.

Cancer, or the Crab, is one of the twelve constellations of the zodiac family. It lies north of the celestial equator and is somewhat difficult to locate, as its stars are a bit faint.

More than 2,000 years ago, the Sun used to lie in Cancer when it reached its furthest point to the north, during the time of the summer solstice of the Northern Hemisphere. Because of this, it's been seen as one of the four cardinal signs that mark the beginning of the seasons. Today, though, the Sun now lies within Gemini during this time of year because of precession.

The constellation has been recognized as a crab in many ancient cultures such as the Syrians, Hebrews, Arabs, and Turks. In Greek mythology, it's said to represent the crab that attacks Hercules (or Heracles) during his fight with Hydra, a water snake with nine heads. While the two fought, Hydra called upon the crab who pinches Hercules' foot. Hercules kills the crab and the hydra, but the crab is rewarded, some say by Hera, by its placement in the sky.

The Chaldeans saw the constellation as a portal the souls passed through before taking human form called the Gate of Men, while ancient Babylonian texts refer to the constellation as a tortoise. To the Egyptians, it was seen as a scarab.

Within Cancer are two well known open star clusters, M44 and M67. M44 is more commonly known as Praesepe, the Latin word for "manger", or the Beehive Cluster. The cluster contains up to a hundred or more stars and is visible to the naked eye, but best viewed with binoculars or a small telescope. It appears as a misty cloud or patch to the naked eye and has been seen in many old texts and literature.

Such names as "Little Mist," "Little Cloud," and "Cloudy Star" have been given to this cluster, and it's been mentioned by Ptolemy as "The Nebulous Mass in the Breast (of Cancer)". It also appears in Johann Bayer's star chart as Nubilum, or Cloudy Object. It's also been used as a weather indicator in ancient times, said to forecast approaching storms.

Two of the most visible stars, Gamma Cancri or Asellus Borealis (Northern Donkey) and Delta Cancri or Asellus Australis (Southern Donkey) were seen by Eratosthenes as the two donkeys the gods Dionysos and Silenus rode during the battle against the Titans.

The other star cluster, M67, is one of the oldest known open star clusters, dated at nearly 10 billion years. It's composed of over 100 stars and is best viewed with a larger telescope.

Cancer is the result of cells escaping normal control mechanisms, and growing uncontrollably as a result. It is a result of genetic changes--certain genes normally regulate the cell cycle and mutations that alter these genes can cause cancer. Cancer is often caused by mutations resulting from chemical carcinogens, certain viruses, or radiation. These mutations can cause cancer if they occur in proto-oncogenes.

A proto-oncogene is responsible for stimulating cell growth and division, and so a genetic change may result in one becoming much more active, transforming it into an oncogene, which will promote excessive cell growth--cancer. Another important gene is the tumor-supressor gene; it inhibits abnormal cell division. A mutation may cause one of these genes to malfunction, also resulting in effects similar to those of the oncogene.

Another common mutation activates the creation of telomerase. This enzyme prevents the degradation of the ends of chromosomes at each cell division, removing the natural limit on the number of times a cell may divide (programmed cell death).

One such mutation is usually not enough to cause cancer. There must be several, usually in proto-oncogenes, tumor-suppressor genes, and the gene for telomerase, before a tumor cell will arise. However, these mutations accumulate over the lifespan of the individual (and so older individuals are more likely to have cancer), and some can even be inherited (this is the genetic basis for increased likelihood of cancer).

Cancer, in essence, is the human body going wrong. It is not possible to 'catch' cancer (although in certain cases a predisposition to developing it may be inherited) It results from the regulatory and control systems of your body failing to function as they should. As such, while certain factors may increase the risk, absolutely anyone has the potential to develop cancer.

In general terms there are two types of tumour (cancerous growth) which may be defined as either benign or malignant. Benign tumours are far less threatening, and are rarely fatal. This is for a number of reasons. Firstly, cells in a benign tumour are more ordered, and resemble the tissue from which it came. Also, while the growth rate of its cells is above normal, it is not as rapid as malignant tumours. One of the typical characteristics of a benign tumour is that it is often (either wholly or partially) surrounded by capsule formed of fibroblasts, which keep it in place to a limited extent. The vital characteristic of a benign tumour however is that it does not metastasize, (more later) and as such is much easier to treat. Malignant tumours, by contrast, are highly disorganised, have a very rapid rate of growth, have no capsule, and are likely to metastasize.
Tumours are most likely to develop in epithelial cells, which form the skin, and line the lungs, ovaries, gut, etc. This is because these types of tissue have a naturally higher rate of growth, as they are continuously being replaced, and so are more likely to mutate (see below).

Cancer is the result of uncontrolled cell growth. A normal cell contains factors which tell it when to divide. There are also factors which inhibit this division, which prevents excessive cell growth. These factors are controlled by a number of genes. When a cell divides it is possible that it fails to accurately replicate its genetic material. When this happens, the cell is said to have mutated. In most cases, the cell cannot survive with this mutation and simply dies. However, if a cell develops a mutation in one of these specific 'control' genes, this may lead to uncontrolled growth. For example, the 'divide' instruction may be permanently 'switched on', or the inhibitor may be permanently 'switched off'. Either case will cause the cell to continue dividing at a much faster rate than that of the cells around it.
Another control factor present in normal cells but absent from cancer cells is contact inhibition. Simply, this stops cells from dividing when they're in contact with other cells around it, thus also maintaining a controlled rate of growth. However, as cancer cells lack this, they continue to grow rapidly, pushing outwards and invading the surrounding tissues. If this continues, this will cause great damage to the tissues, resulting in the death of the affected normal cells. The extent of the damage will depend on the tissues in which it occurs. For example, if this takes place in the liver, the cancer cells will spread into the liver, killing the normal cells, and eventually taking up so much space that there aren't enough liver cells to allow it to function, resulting in organ failure and the death of the patient.

A characteristic present in cancer cells is that of angiogenesis, which is the process of creating new blood capillaries. This takes place in normal cells during wound healing, and normal growth. However, cancer cells have the ability to constantly create a new blood supply. This is vital for the cancer's survival, as the blood supply brings the cells the energy and nutrients which they need to keep dividing at their accelerated rate. This can also lead to one of the more devastating aspects of cancer: Metastasis.
Metastasis is where a few cancer cells manage to permeate the capillary wall. Once inside the capillary the cell(s) will travel through the blood system until they become lodged at another site in the body. They then continue to grow as before, meaning that the patient now has cancer in more than one location. At this point treatment becomes much more difficult, and the prognosis (the likelihood of survival) becomes far less favourable.

This process may not only be caused by mutations in the cell however. Changes in the growth of cells may also occur due to chronic irritation to those cells. Normal tissues have the ability to alter their growth rate in response to external factors. For example, if you cut yourself, the growth rate of the skin cells in that area will increase so that the wound will heal quickly. Once the healing process is complete, the growth rate returns to normal. If the skin is exposed to persistent irritation - such as the rubbing of a shoe - the cells will adapt by increasing their growth rate and producing a thicker, harder area of skin, in order to protect itself from the irritation. This process is called hyperplasia, and is reversible, so that if you stop wearing the shoe, the skin returns to normal. However, if the irritation is more extreme, such as smoke regularly entering the lungs, a process known as metaplasia occurs. This is where cells actually convert to a different type as a response to the irritation. This happens in the lining of the lungs in smokers. Due to their new form, the cells are no longer able to clear away debris so effectively, and so smokers are more likely to suffer from illnesses such as bronchitis. However, this process is also reversible, and if a smoker quits, given enough time, the lung lining will return to normal. An even more extreme development of this is dysplasia, which occurs after prolonged irritation, such as in chronic or long-term smokers, or miners who are exposed to large quantities of dust on a very regular basis. Not only do these cells change their form, but they also show a disordered growth pattern, and become irregular in shape, with large, dark nuclei. These cells may also show an increased growth rate. As dysplasia can appear similar to cancerous tissue, it is also known as precancerous. This state of dysplasia is irreversible and it is very easy for this tissue to become cancerous. Once this has occured, and a tumour begins to form, the cell change is known as neoplasia.

It followed her home,
a quiet shadow
that sat on her chest,
invisible, but heavy.

It flowed through her veins
as ice water
when the clinic called with updates
pathology, hematology, microbiology- (all of the cruel sciences)

At night
It lay between them (she and her lover)
as still as a stone;
just as warm.

It followed her home, and
despite numerous attempts
at eviction,
it stayed.

In internet parlance cancer has become a common insult used to describe something that the speaker thinks is worthless and unpleasant. The allusion to the biological phenomena of cancer is pretty obvious: it consumes resources (usually attention) and contributes nothing of value. It's more insult than descriptive because it's often aimed at people or groups as well as media and trends. Internet cancer is the thing that keeps popping up in your Youtube recommendation no matter how many times you try to get rid of it, the argument that will not die consuming a subreddit you used to like, and every single comment left by that person you should have unfriended from Facebook two years ago but that you know will become a thing if you do. The topic of cancerousness is, of course, subjective and will likely start a flame war if you drop it into a public space assuming anyone even tries to engage with it.


Can"cer (?), n. [L. cancer, cancri, crab, ulcer, a sign of the zodiac; akin to Gr. , Skr. karkaa crab, and prob. Skr. karkara hard, the crab being named from its hard shell. Cf. Canner, Chancre.]

1. Zool.

A genus of decapod Crustacea, including some of the most common shore crabs of Europe and North America, as the rock crab, Jonah crab, etc. See Crab.

2. Astron.

  1. The fourth of the twelve signs of the zodiac. The first point is the northern limit of the sun's course in summer; hence, the sign of the summer solstice. See Tropic.
  2. A northern constellation between Gemini and Leo.

3. Med.

Formerly, any malignant growth, esp. one attended with great pain and ulceration, with cachexia and progressive emaciation. It was so called, perhaps, from the great veins which surround it, compared by the ancients to the claws of a crab. The term it now restricted to such a growth made up of aggregations of epithelial cells, either without support or embedded in the meshes of a trabecular framework.

⇒ Four kinds of cancers are recognized:

  1. Epithelial cancer, or Epithelioma, in which there is no trabecular framework. See Epithelioma.
  2. Scirrhous cancer, or Hard cancer, in which the framework predominates, and the tumor is of hard consistence and slow growth.
  3. Encephaloid, Medullary, or Soft cancer, in which the cellular element predominates, and the tumor is soft, grows rapidy, and often ulcerates.
  4. Colloid cancer, in which the cancerous structure becomes gelatinous.
The last three varieties are also called carcinoma.

Cancer cells, cells once believed to be peculiar to cancers, but now know to be epithelial cells differing in no respect from those found elsewhere in the body, and distinguished only by peculiarity of location and grouping. -- Cancer root Bot., the name of several low plants, mostly parasitic on roots, as the beech drops, the squawroot, etc. -- Tropic of Cancer. See Tropic.


© Webster 1913.

E2 Editor's note: Note that Webby's knowledge of cancer is from 1913. For some more modern thoughts in a simple form, check out

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