Cancer cells
Cancer Can"cer, n. [L. cancer, cancri, crab, ulcer, a sign of the zodiac; akin to Gr. karki`nos, Skr. karka[.t]a crab, and prob. Skr. karkara hard, the crab being named from its hard shell. Cf. {Canner}, {Chancre}.] 1. (Zo["o]l.) 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}. [1913 Webster]

2. (Astron.) (a) 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}. (b) A northern constellation between Gemini and Leo. [1913 Webster]

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 is 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. [1913 Webster]

Note: 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 cancer}, {Medullary cancer}, 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}. [1913 Webster]

{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}. [1913 Webster]


The Collaborative International Dictionary of English. 2000.

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