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Definition of Cancer

Cancer: An abnormal growth of cells which tend to proliferate in an uncontrolled way and, in some cases, to metastasize (spread).

Cancer is not one disease. It is a group of more than 100 different and distinctive diseases.

Cancer can involve any tissue of the body and have many different forms in each body area. Most cancers are named for the type of cell or organ in which they start. If a cancer spreads (metastasizes), the new tumor bears the same name as the original (primary) tumor.

The frequency of a particular cancer may depend on gender. While skin cancer is the most common type of malignancy for both men and women, the second most common type in men is prostate cancer and in women, breast cancer.

Cancer frequency does not equate to cancer mortality. Skin cancers are often curable. Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer for both men and women in the United States today.

Benign tumors are NOT cancer; malignant tumors are cancer. Cancer is NOT contagious.

Cancer is the Latin word for crab. The ancients used the word to mean a malignancy, doubtless because of the crab-like tenacity a malignant tumor sometimes seems to show in grasping the tissues it invades. Cancer may also be called malignancy, a malignant tumor, or a neoplasm (literally, a new growth).

Source: MedTerms™ Medical Dictionary
http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2580
Last Editorial Review: 8/28/2013

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