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, in astronomy
Cancer [Lat.,=the crab], in astronomy, constellation lying on the ecliptic (the sun's apparent path through the heavens) between Gemini and Leo; it is a constellation of the zodiac. It contains the star cluster Praesepe, but no bright stars. The tropic of Cancer takes its name from this constellation, in which the summer solstice was located about 2,000 years ago. Now, because of the precession of the equinoxes, the summer solstice has moved westward into the constellation Gemini. Cancer reaches its highest point in the evening sky in March.


, in medicine

cancer, in medicine, common term for neoplasms, or tumors, that are malignant. Like benign tumors, malignant tumors do not respond to body mechanisms that limit cell growth. Unlike benign tumors, malignant tumors consist of undifferentiated, or unspecialized, cells that show an atypical cell structure and do not function like the normal cells from the organ from which they derive. Cancer cells, unlike normal cells, lack contact inhibition; cancer cells growing in laboratory tissue culture do not stop growing when they touch each other on a glass or other solid surface but grow in masses several layers deep.

Loss of contact inhibition accounts for two other characteristics of cancer cells: invasiveness of surrounding tissues, and metastasis, or spreading via the lymph system or blood to other tissues and organs. Whereas normal cells have a limited lifespan controlled by the telomere gene, which signals the end of the cell line, cancer cells contain telomerase, an enzyme that alters the telomere gene and allows the cell to continue to divide. Cancer tissue, growing without limits, competes with normal tissue for nutrients, eventually killing normal cells by nutritional deprivation. Cancerous tissue can also cause secondary effects, in which the expanding malignant growth puts pressure on surrounding tissue or organs or the cancer cells metastasize and invade other organs.

Virtually all organs and tissues are susceptible to cancer. Cancers are usually named for their site of origin. Cancer cells that spread to other organs are similar to those of the original tumor, therefore these secondary (metastatic) cancers are still named for their primary site even though they may have invaded a different organ. For example, lung cancer that has spread to the brain is called metastatic lung cancer, rather than brain cancer. Carcinoma in situ refers to a cancer that has not spread. (See neoplasm for more on cancer nomenclature.)

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in adults; leukemia is the most common cancer in children. Other common types of cancer include breast cancer (in women), prostate cancer (in men), and colon cancer (see also Hodgkin's disease). The incidence of particular cancers varies around the world and sometimes according to ethnic group. For instance, African Americans have comparatively higher cancer rates and cancer mortality rates. It is unclear whether this is due to differences in exposure or to biological susceptibility. The incidence of diagnosed cases of cancer rose steadily in the United States for decades, but since the early 21st cent. it has slowly declined.

Causes of Cancer

Cancer results from mutations of certain genes that allow the cells to begin their uncontrolled growth. These mutations are either inherited or acquired. Acquired mutations are caused by repeated insults from triggers (e.g., cigarette smoke or ultraviolet rays) referred to as carcinogens. There is usually a latency period of years or decades between exposure to a carcinogen and the appearance of cancer. This, combined with the individual nature of susceptibility to cancer, makes it very difficult to establish a cause for many cancers.

The most significant avoidable carcinogens are the chemical components of tobacco smoke (see smoking). Dietary components, like excessive consumption of alcohol or of foods high in fat and low in fiber rather than fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants and necessary micronutrients, have also been linked with various cancers. Some cancers may be triggered by hormone imbalances. For example, some daughters of mothers who had been given DES (diethylstilbestrol) during pregnancy to prevent miscarriage developed vaginal adenocarcinomas as young women. Aflatoxins are natural mold byproducts that can cause cancer of the liver.

Certain carcinogens present occupational hazards. For example, in the asbestos industry, workers have a high probability of developing lung and colon cancer or a particularly virulent cancer of the mesothelium (the lining of the chest and abdomen). Benzene and vinyl chloride are other known industrial carcinogens.

X rays and radioactive elements are also carcinogenic; the high incidence of leukemia and other cancers in Japanese survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the increased incidence of thyroid cancer after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster give evidence of this. Exposure to the ultraviolet radiation of sunlight is the leading cause of skin cancer.

Many other substances have been identified as carcinogenic to a greater or lesser extent, including chemicals in pesticides that leave residues on foods. The Delaney clause, an amendment (1958) to the U.S. Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act that prohibits even minuscule amounts of carcinogens in the food supply, has provided the impetus for the investigation of many such chemicals but has also been a source of controversy between industry and environmentalists.06/00

In the early 20th cent., the American virologist Peyton Rous showed that certain sarcomas affecting fowl could be transmitted by injection of an agent invisible under the microscope and later indentified as an RNA-containing virus. Other research uncovered oncogenic, or tumor-causing, viruses, first in experimental animals and then in humans. The Epstein-Barr virus, a member of the herpesvirus group, has been linked with a number of human cancers, including the lymphomas that often occur in immunosuppressed people, such as people with AIDS. Several human papillomaviruses (HPV) have also been shown to initiate cancers. For example, some types of HPV cause genital warts known as condylomata acuminata, which can lead to invasive cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, or penis, and another human papillomavirus has been associated with some forms of Kaposi's sarcoma. In addition, hepatitis B has been shown to increase the risk of liver cancer. Bacteria have also been associated with cancer. For example, the Helicobacter pylori bacterium that causes many ulcers is also associated with an increased risk of stomach cancer.

Scientists have identified a few cancers in animals that typically develop as a result of the transmission of cancer cells from one individual to another. Tasmanian facial tumor disease, which afflicts Tasmanian devils, was first identified in the 1990s, and the deadly disease, which has spread rapidly through the Tasmanian devil population, has led to the species being declared endangered. Canine transmissible venereal tumor, which is transmitted between dogs during sex, several forms of cancer that infect bivalves, and a sarcoma that infects laboratory hamsters are other known transmissible cancers.

Cancer Susceptibility

Risk to humans from carcinogens depends upon the dose and a person's biologic susceptibility. Factors influencing a person's biological susceptibility to cancer include age, sex, immune status, nutritional status, genetics, and ethnicity. Only 5% of all cancers in the United States are thought to be explained by inherited genetic mutations. Known genes associated with hereditary cancer include the aberrant BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that increase breast cancer risk and the HNPCC gene that is linked with colon cancer. In hereditary forms, it is often the normal gene of the allele that is injured or destroyed, leaving the abnormal inherited gene in control. Nonhereditary cancers sometimes involve the same gene mutations that hereditary forms have.

Tumor Development

Most bodily insults by carcinogens come to nothing because DNA has built-in repair mechanisms, but repeated insults can eventually result in mutations or altered gene expression in key genes called oncogenes and tumor-suppressor genes. Oncogenes produce growth factors, substances that signal a cell to grow and divide into daughter cells; tumor-suppressor genes (such as the p16, p53, and BRCA1 genes) normally produce a negative growth factor that tells a cell when to stop dividing. The abnormally inactivated tumor-suppressor gene or the abnormally activated oncogene is inherited by each of the cell's daughter cells, and a tumor develops. In many cases tumors remain small and in one place (in situ) for years, but some develop their own blood vessels (a process known as angiogenesis) and begin to grow and spread.


The classic symptoms of cancer are rapid weight loss; a change in a wart or mole; a sore that does not heal; difficulty swallowing; chronic hoarseness, blood in phlegm, urine, or stool (a consequence of angiogenesis); chronic abdominal pain; a change in size or shape of the testes; a change in bowel habits; a lump in the breast; and unusual vaginal bleeding. Many of these and other symptoms are often nonspecific, e.g., weakness, loss of appetite, and weight loss, and thus are not obvious in the early stages. Sometimes the side effects of tumor growth are more severe than the actual effects of the malignancy; for example, some tumors secrete materials such as serotonin and histamine that can cause drastic vascular changes. Conversely, cancers that destroy tissue may also have serious effects, e.g., malignant destruction of bone tissue may raise the blood level of calcium.

Prevention and Detection

As more has been learned about cancer, emphasis on prevention and early detection has increased. Cessation of smoking and other tobacco use is the most important controllable means of prevention; smoking causes about 30% of the cancer deaths in the United States. A diet low in fat and high in fiber, including a variety of fruits and vegetables (especially those high in antioxidants), is also recommended. Effective protection against the rays of the sun is recommended to avoid skin cancer. Another preventive approach is vaccination against cancer-causing viruses, such as the hepatitis B virus.

Cancers caught early, before metastasis, have the best cure rates. A number of screening tools are now available to allow early detection and treatment. Among these are monthly breast self-examinations and regular mammography and Pap tests for women, regular self-examination of the testes for young men, and, for older men, regular examination of the prostate gland with blood tests for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tumor marker (a substance in the body that heralds an increased cancer risk). A fecal immunochemical test (FIT) or colonoscopy plus physical examination and laboratory tests for carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) are recommended for detection of colon cancer. Self-examination of the skin is important for the early detection of skin cancers. Suspicion of a tumor may be confirmed by X-ray study, endoscopy (see endoscope), blood tests for various tumor markers, and biopsy from which the cells are examined by a pathologist for malignancy.


Developments in the treatment of cancer have led to greatly improved survival and quality of life for cancer patients in the past three decades. Traditionally, cancer has been treated by surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. In recent years immunotherapy has been added to that list. New drugs and techniques are constantly being researched and developed, such as antiangiogenic agents (e.g., angiostatin and endostatin), genetically engineered monoclonal antibodies, retinoid agents, and therapeutic vaccines (agents that stimulate the immune system to attack cancerous cells).

For most kinds of cancer, surgery remains the primary treatment. It is most effective if the cancer is caught while still localized. Some cancers that spread to the lymph system are sometimes treated by extensive surgical removal of tissue, but the trend is toward more conservative procedures (see mastectomy). Cryosurgery, the use of extreme cold, and electrodessication, the use of extreme heat, are also being used to kill cancerous tissue and the surrounding blood supply. If the cancer has metastasized, surgery is often replaced by or followed by radiation therapy (which is a localized therapy) and chemotherapy (which is a system-wide therapy).

For some cancers, radiation therapy—either from an external beam or from implanted radioactive pellets—is the primary treatment. The usual forms are X rays and gamma rays. Use of radioactive elements specific for particular target organs, such as radioactive iodine specific for the thyroid gland, is effective in treating malignancies of those organs.

Cytotoxic chemotherapy is used as a primary treatment for some cancers, such as lymphomas and leukemias or as an addition to surgery or radiation therapy. Cytotoxic drugs (drugs that are toxic to cells) are aimed at rapidly proliferating cells and interfere with nucleic acid and protein synthesis in the cancer cell, but they are often toxic to normal rapidly proliferating cells, such as bone marrow and hair cells. Often a combination of cytotoxic drugs is used. Drugs that reduce side effects may be added to the treatment, such as antinausea agents.

Hormonal chemotherapy is based upon the fact that the growth of some malignant tumors (specifically those of the reproductive organs) is influenced by reproductive hormones. Tamoxifen is a naturally occurring estrogen inhibitor used to prevent breast cancer recurrences. Flutamide is sometimes used in prostate cancer to inhibit androgen uptake. Sex-hormone related drugs such as DES and tamoxifen, which may be carcinogenic under some conditions, have proved to be protective under others.

More specifically targeted drug therapies have begun to be explored as a better understanding of the molecular biology of individual cancers has been developed. Such drugs are designed to kill only cancer cells while having fewer side effects. Gleevec (STI-571), which is used to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia and some other cancers, inhibits certain kinase receptors that become hyperactive in cancer cells, resulting in the cells' rapid reproduction.

Immunotherapy (sometimes called biological therapy) uses substances that help the body mobilize its immune defenses. Some attack the tumor itself, while others bolster the body's ability to withstand conventional chemotherapy treatment. Other new or experimental therapies include drugs that inhibit angiogenesis and photodynamic therapy, in which a patient is given a drug to make the tumor light-sensitive, after which the tumor is exposed to bright laser light. The best choice of treatment will increasingly be influenced by the growing field of molecular pathology, in which characteristics of individual cancers (e.g., virulence or resistance to a particular treatment) can be revealed by analysis of their genetic characteristics rather than by the microscope.

Besides treatment of the cancer itself, progress has been made in the management of the chronic pain that often accompanies cancer and in the education of patients and physicians in such techniques as biofeedback, acupuncture, and meditation and the appropriate use of narcotics and other medications. Because of improvements in early detection and treatment, many more people are now living with cancer. Over half of all people with cancer now survive for five or more years.


See C. N. Coleman, Understanding Cancer (2d ed. 2006); A. H. Ko et al., Everyone's Guide to Cancer Therapy (rev 5th ed. 2008); S. Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies (2010); G. Johnson, The Cancer Chronicles (2013). See also publications of the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


(kan -ser) (Crab) An inconspicuous zodiac constellation in the northern hemisphere between Gemini and Leo, its brightest stars being of 3rd and 4th magnitude. There are many double and variable stars, including the multiple star Zeta (ζ) Cancri. The area also contains the open clusters Praesepe and the fainter M67 (NGC 2682) and the strong radio source NGC 2623. Abbrev.: Cnc; genitive form: Cancri; approx. position: RA 9h, dec +20°; area: 506 sq deg.
Collins Dictionary of Astronomy © Market House Books Ltd, 2006
Enlarge picture
Woodcuts of the zodiacal signs Cancer and Scorpio, from a late fifteenth-century astrological text. Reproduced by permission of Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Cancer (Latin for “crab”), the fourth sign of the zodiac, is a cardinal water sign. It is a negative (in the value-neutral sense of being negatively charged), feminine sign ruled by the Moon. Its symbol is the crab, and its glyph is said to represent the two claws of a crab. A moody sign, Cancer is the source of the term “crabby.” Cancer is associated with the breasts and the stomach, and people with a Cancer sun sign are prone to digestion and weight problems. The key phrase for Cancer is I feel.

Cancer, like many of the other signs of the zodiac, does not have a developed mythology. During the second labor of Hercules (it might be better termed the second feat or test), while he was struggling against the many-headed hydra, a giant crab bit him on the heel to create a diversion. Hercules, however, crushed it underfoot. This crab, Carcinus (Greek for “crayfish”), was an ally of Hera, queen mother of the gods, who opposed Hercules. The crab was rewarded for sacrificing loyalty when Hera promoted it to distinction as the constellation Cancer. The sign Cancer is often compared with a turtle (the symbol for Cancer in the Babylonian zodiac), and a rich source of symbolic associations for Cancer can be found in the image of the turtle, another shoreline dweller.

Cancerians are best known for their attachment to home and, like the turtle, would be happy to carry their house everywhere (if only they could!). Although homebodies, they enjoy travel if they know they have a secure home to which they can always return. Like Carcinus, they are strongly attached to their mother (or to the more nurturing parent) and tend to be nurturing parents themselves. They are highly sensitive individuals who are easily “crushed,” which is why they have developed an emotional “shell” within which they can retreat. They are moodier than any of the other signs of the zodiac, and food represents emotional security to them. Like all water signs, they regard emotions as more real than any other aspect of life.

The sign that the Sun was in at birth is usually the single most important influence on a native’s personality. Thus, when people say they are a certain sign, they are almost always referring to their sun sign. There is a wealth of information available on the characteristics of the zodiacal signs—so much that one book would not be able to contain it all. Sun-sign astrology, which is the kind of astrology found in newspaper columns and popular magazines, has the advantage of simplicity. But this simplicity is purchased at the price of ignoring other astrological influences, such as one’s Moon sign, rising sign, etc. These other influences can substantially modify a person’s basic sun sign traits. As a consequence, it is the rare individual who is completely typical of her or his sign. The reader should bear this caveat in mind when perusing the following series of sun sign interpretations.

One traditional way in which astrologers condense information is by summarizing sign and planet traits in lists of words and short phrases called keywords or key phrases. The following Cancer key words are drawn from Manly P. Hall’s Astrological Keywords:

Emotional key words: “Artistic and dreamy, maternal, kindhearted, romantic, domestic, impressionable, psychic, imaginative, serene, intuitive, restless, despondent, sometimes lazy and self-indulgent.”

Mental key words: “Versatile, self-sacrificing, receptive, expresses great veneration for ancestry and precedent, thorough, persevering, cautious, reserved, brooding.”

At present, there are various astrology report programs that contain interpretations of each of the 12 sun signs. A selection of these for Sun in Cancer has been excerpted below:

Very emotional and sensitive, you have an intuitive understanding of the “vibes” around you. You tend to be quite generous, giving, loving and caring, but only when your own needs for emotional support, love and security have been met. If they are not met, you tend to withdraw into yourself and become very insecure and selfish. Your home and family (especially your mother or the person who played that role for you early on) represent security for you and thus assume a larger-than-life importance. Very sentimental, you have vivid and long-enduring memories of the past. No matter how well adjusted you are, you will always need a secret quiet place of your own in order to feel at peace. Feeding others can give you great pleasure; you would enjoy being part of a large family. (From “Professional Natal Report.” Courtesy of Astrolabe [].)

You have powerful emotional attachments to the past, your family, your childhood, those places you associate with safety and security and your beginnings. Maintaining a connection with your roots and heritage and keeping family bonds strong are very important to you. Loyal, devoted, and sentimental, you tend to cling to whatever is dear to you, be it person, familiar place, or cherished possession.

You are sympathetic, nurturing, supportive, and very sensitive to the emotional needs of other people. You like to be needed, to care for others, and you often worry about the people you love. You have a very strong need for a sense of belonging and acceptance, and you center much of your life around your home. You are more concerned about people and their feelings than with power, achievement, or position in society. Kindness, consideration, and tenderness impress you more than any sort of honor the world can bestow.

You are primarily emotional and your views are often dominated by your feelings and by your own personal, subjective experiences, rather than reason, logic, or abstract principles. It is difficult for you to judge situations in a fair, objective manner for your personal sympathies and loyalties usually enter in. You take things very personally, and sometimes build a wall around yourself to protect yourself from pain and rejection. You feel rather shy and vulnerable at heart. You also tend to be moody, experiencing frequent emotional ups and downs. You need to have a place and time in your life to withdraw, introspect, dream, and replenish yourself; otherwise you become cranky and unhappy with those around you.

You function in an instinctive, nonrational manner and like to immerse yourself in creative activities where you can express your feelings, imagination, and instincts. You often love to cook, since it can be both creative and a way to nurture and nourish others. You also have a great affinity for music, because it evokes and communicates feelings that may be difficult or impossible to put into words.

Your compassion, sensitivity, and imagination are your strong points. Your faults include an inability to release the past and go forward, clannishness and prejudice, and a tendency to be self-pitying when you meet hardships in life. (From “Merlin,” by Gina Ronco and Agnes Nightingale. Courtesy of Cosmic Patterns [].)

Opening the inner eye, mapping the topography of consciousness, learning to express compassion—these are Cancer’s evolutionary aims. To assist in that work, Cosmic Intelligence has cranked up the volume on the Crab’s ability to feel. No other sign is so sensitive—nor so vulnerable. A certain amount of self-defense is appropriate here; after all, this world isn’t exactly the Garden of Eden. Trouble is, legitimate self-defense can degenerate into shyness or a fear of making changes. You really do care about the hurts that other beings suffer. That’s good news. You also have an instinctive ability to soothe those hurts, homing in on the source of the pain. More good news. The bad news is that you could choose to remain forever protected within the safe (and invisible!) role of the Healer, the Counselor, or the Wise One.

With the Sun in Cancer, you feed your solar vitality by finding a role in the world in which you address the hurt in the lives of other beings. You become a nurturer or a healer of some sort. You also need to make sure that you have enough real intimacy and quiet, private time to “nurture the nurturer”—yourself, in other words.

Those methods strengthen your sense of identity. They trigger higher states of awareness in you. If you don’t express your soothing wound-binding instincts, all the glories of the world would leave you feeling like an imposter in your own life. And without quiet time and naked intimate honesty, you’ll quickly burn out on playing the role of everyone’s psychotherapist.

Like the crab, you’re a vulnerable creature who’s evolved a shell. That’s fine and necessary. But again like the crab, you must eventually shed your shell and grow a larger, more inclusive one, or you’ll be awfully cramped. (From “The Sky Within,” by Steven Forrest. Courtesy of Matrix Software [] and Steven Forrest [].)

Among its several natal programs, Matrix Software created a unique report based on the published works of the early twentieth-century astrologer Grant Lewi (1901–1952). Lewi’s highly original delineations were recognized as creative and insightful by his contemporaries. One measure of the appeal of his work is that his books Astrology for the Millions and Heaven Knows What are still in print. The following is excerpted from the report program “Heaven Knows What”:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, which as a nation was born in Cancer, July 4, 1776.)

The defensive, protective instincts dominate Cancer, whose life aims primarily at security, material and domestic. Capable of great self-sufficiency, or of being a clinging vine (male or female), the Cancer branch will take the turn as indicated by the roots, which must always be in secure soil. If independence serves security, Cancer will be independent; if security depends on another, Cancer will cling. If security requires taking a chance, Cancer will take a chance—generally, if possible, with someone else’s money, and once he has put his capital or someone else’s into a venture, he watches it like a hawk. His sense of responsibility toward another’s money, security, etc., is as deep as if they were his own; he pays his debts and expects others to do the same. It was Coolidge, Cancer President, whose solution to the war debts was of naive simplicity: “They hired the money, didn’t they?” It is this simple, direct possessiveness toward what rightfully belongs to him that makes Cancer outstandingly successful in business, where he makes his fortune buying and selling, rather than in Wall Street. Cancer will gamble when he has a nest egg, not before, and then as a game rather than as a means of livelihood.

With livelihood (security), Cancer takes no chances, either in getting it or keeping it. It is therefore tops as a home-making sign; the maternal-paternal instinct is powerful; and the Cancer, male or female, will go to great lengths to protect, defend and improve his home, mate and children. If Cancer remains unmarried, it is because protectiveness has turned somehow into fear or selfishness; or because he feels that in some way his security is best served alone. Cancer protects himself, as well as his possessions, and may protect himself from the chances of emotional hurt by withdrawing into himself and making his security there, alone. This is a pitiable sight, because Cancer really needs a home and should have children, and few persons give the effect of incompleteness more than the introverted Cancerian who has no one to lavish his protectiveness on but himself. For in its complete development, the Cancer protectiveness becomes encompassing love that fills all its world, and warms and comforts those who are lucky enough to live in the sphere of its radiations. (Courtesy of Matrix Software [].)

The following excerpt comes not from a natal report program, but from David Cochrane’s 2002 book, Astrology for the 21st Century. Based on lessons for astrology students, it approaches the signs of the zodiac from a somewhat different perspective than the other short delineations cited here:

The strongest attributes of Cancer that I have noticed is very strong attachment to people and things that they are familiar with, and having their feelings hurt by loved ones. Cancer depends on close friends and family for the support and love they give, although they rarely discuss it. These views of Cancer agree closely with the findings of most astrologers. I have also observed that Cancer is easily prone to feelings of jealousy if it feels excluded from the inner circle of closeness, and sometimes is suspicious that it is being pushed away or kept out of something when this is not the case. Cancer is also inclined to be careful about spending money, and is usually aware of the exact balance in the bank account, and sometimes will go to great lengths to ensure prosperity and financial strength; money is security and protects the family, and Cancer tends not to trust the outer world to provide in the future. Cancer’s concern for financial security appears to be a symptom of its tendency to be emotionally attached and bonded to close friends and family, and a fear of losing the closeness from an uncaring outer world. (Courtesy of Cosmic Patterns [] and David Cochrane [].)

A number of specialized report programs have been developed that offer useful supplements to the generic delineations of general reports. The following sun-sign interpretation has been drawn from a program written by Gloria Star (originally part of her book Astrology: Woman to Woman) that generates a specialized report for women:

With your Sun in Cancer you can radiate a kind of comfort and care which comes from the core of your being. You thrive most when you’re taking part in nourishing—whether you’re tending your garden, teaching others, safeguarding children or fostering growth in a company. You may express strong sentimentality due to your attachment to the past, and can be especially tenacious with situations, people and your goals. Emotional sensitivity is simply a part of your essence, although your protective shell can fool people.

Even when you’re expressing your assertiveness and will, your emotional sensitivity acts as a filter. You innately know that expressing your masculine side has nothing do with acting like a man, but that, instead, you can assert yourself and enjoy the edge that being a woman confers. Your projection of the masculine has a feminine quality—Cancer is a feminine water sign! Before you can readily assert yourself, you must “get a feeling” for the person or situation; it’s almost as though you turn inward before you turn outward. It may be difficult for you to stand up to boisterous, power-hungry individuals, and your shields are likely to go up when you’re confronted with circumstances that seem to assault your vulnerability. However, once you’re more at home with a situation, your sensitivity will help you navigate through it more gracefully than some of those rowdy types of individuals. You appreciate sensitive men, although you may attract men who need to be mothered. As you’ve discovered, there are many ways to nurture …. However, you may also think you need a man to protect you. When you step back and look at it, who is protecting whom? Your drive to accomplish recognition may be stimulated by your need to create the security you need for yourself and your family, and once you have children, they may take first priority.

Regardless of your priorities, you will feel successful only when you’ve created a real sense of security with your Sun in Cancer. Defining this security is a very personal thing, and you must be happy with your own definition. Your work, your roles within your family, and your creativity all depend upon your sensitivity in this regard, since when you’re insecure, you hang on tenaciously to everybody and everything. But when you’re feeling stabilized, you don’t even over-water the plants! (From “Woman to Woman,” by Gloria Star. Courtesy of Matrix Software [] and Gloria Star [].)

Responding to the revival of interest in pre-twentieth-century astrology, J. Lee Lehman developed a report program embodying the interpretive approach of traditional astrology. The following is excerpted from her book Classical Astrology for Modern Living and her computer program “Classical Report”:

You are inconstant, easily changing your purpose, and sensitive to changes of Moon phase. You are innocent, cheerful, libidinous, and a lover of recreations like music, dancing, sports and games. If stressed, you suffer from poor digestion, and you have a tendency to edema, or water retention.

You are a Water Sign, which means that you are “cold” and “wet.” The “wet” component means, among other things, that you blur distinctions, and that you are more swayed by passion than by intellectual argument. At your worst, you see too many connections, becoming lost in conspiracies. At your best, you spot the connection that everyone else missed. You are perceived as being “cold,” which in your case simply means you may not be quickly reacting on a surface level. In the modern parlance, it fits better with “cold and dry” than with simply “cold.” However, a “cold” type is basically lethargic, or slow to react. Here we have an interesting apparent contradiction: your emotions run deep, but that doesn’t mean you’re talking about them all the time! The quiet quality of “cold” may mislead others about what you’re feeling. The “problem” with “cold” is that it makes it hard for you to forget slights. Because you don’t tend to lash out immediately, it’s hard for you not to allow your anger to build up.

The sign of Cancer is called a Cardinal sign in astrology, which means that you are better at starting new things than on finishing them. Laboring overlong at any task is not your strong suit. (Courtesy of J. Lee Lehman, Ph.D., copyright 1998 [].)

Readers interested in examining interpretations for their Chinese astrological sign should refer to the relevant entry. A guide for determining one’s sign in the Chinese system is provided in the entry on the Chinese zodiac.


Cochrane, David. Astrology for the 21st Century. Gainesville, FL: Cosmic Patterns, 2002.
Forrest, Steven. The Inner Sky: How to Make Wiser Choices for a More Fulfilling Life. 4th ed. San Diego: ACS Publications, 1989.
Green, Landis Knight. The Astrologer’s Manual: Modern Insights into an Ancient Art. Sebastopol, CA: CRCS Publications, 1975.
Hall, Manly P. Astrological Keywords. New York, Philosophical Library, 1958. Reprint, Savage, MD: Littlefield Adams Quality Paperbacks, 1975.
Lehman, J. Lee. Classical Astrology for Modern Living: From Ptolemy to Psychology & Back Again. Atglen, PA: Whitford Press, 1996.
Lewi, Grant. Astrology for the Millions. 5th rev. ed. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1978.
Lewi, Grant. Heaven Knows What. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1969.
Lewi, Grant. Astrology & Your Child: A Handbook for Parents. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 2001.
Star, Gloria. Astrology: Woman to Woman. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1999.
The Astrology Book, Second Edition © 2003 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a zodiacal constellation whose brightest star has a visual stellar magnitude of 3.5. The open cluster M44 (Praesepe), which is visible to the naked eye, is in Cancer. Two thousand years ago, when astronomical terminology was created, the winter solstice occurred in Cancer, as a consequence of which the earth’s northern tropic is still called the Tropic of Cancer. The best conditions for observation occur in January and February. The constellation is visible throughout the USSR.



(also carcinoma), a malignant tumor of epithelial tissue. The probable origin of the term “cancer” is related to its growth pattern; that is, cancer often grows into surrounding tissue in cords that resemble the claws of a crustacean. This growth is easily observable in, for example, breast or skin cancer. In many countries, for instance, France, “cancer” refers to any malignant tumor, regardless of its tissue origin and structure.

A cancerous tumor consists of basic tissue that determines the nature of the tumor (epithelial parenchyma) and connective supporting tissue (stroma) that contains blood and lymph vessels. There are two types of normal epithelium—columnar epithelium and squamous epithelium. On this basis, cylindrical carcinoma (also called glandular cancer or adenocarcinoma) and squamous cell carcinoma are distinguished. Cylindrical carcinoma originates most often in the glandular cells of gastrointestinal mucosa. Squamous cell carcinoma originates in the cover cells of the skin and in the mucosa of the mouth, respiratory tract, and genitourinary tract. A tumor may be dense (scirrhous) or soft (medullary or cerebriform), depending on the degree of the stroma’s development.

Sometimes cancer cells partially retain the functions of the original tissue, for example, stomach cancer cells continue to produce mucus during mucinous carcinoma. However, cancer cells are generally atypical, and their shape and size vary considerably. Special functions of the epithelium are lost or distorted. Normal squamous epithelial cells are characterized by cornification. In squamous cell carcinoma, the cornification of epithelial cells is replaced by the formation of peculiar rounded masses of keratic matter that do not have any functional significance.

Cancer cells differ from normal cells according to the following characteristics: cytogenetic characteristics (atypical mitosis, disruption of the karyotype), electron-microscopic characteristics (decrease in mitochondria and a simplification of their structure, disorganization of membrane formations), biochemical characteristics (change in the spectrum of enzymes, change in the content and composition of DNA and RNA), and immunological characteristics (the replacement of normal antigens with tumor antigens). The atypia may also affect the stroma of the cancer, which acquires features characteristic of sarcoma; the tumor formed is called carcinosarcoma.

Cancer is usually preceded by the pathological processes of precancer. Cancer is characterized by its ability to invade adjacent healthy tissue and destroy it. Blood and lymph vessels are often damaged. Cancer cells are disseminated through the body primarily by the lymph stream, but also by the blood stream. They then settle in various organs and tissues, and, as a result, secondary nodules are formed. Different types of cancer are characterized by metastases to different organs. Lung cancer or cancer of the prostate, mammary, or thyroid glands, for example, often metastasize to the bones.

Cancerous tissue may undergo partial necrosis and decomposition. Hemorrhaging and ultimately anemia may result. Necrotic areas may become infected and suppurate. Secondary infections complicate the course of cancer and make diagnosis difficult in the later stages of the disease. In certain parts of the body, cancerous tumors can interfere with vital bodily functions. Cancer of the esophagus, for example, leads to forced starvation, and cancer of the urinary tract to urinary retention.

In the late stages of cancer severe emaciation, or cancerous cachexia, sometimes develops. Biopsy, a cytological examination method, and X rays are important in the diagnosis of cancer.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

What does it mean when you dream about cancer?

To dream about cancer does not necessarily mean that the dreamer either has or will contract this disease. Often dreaming of cancer indicates a condition in the dreamer’s life that is hopeless and has been consuming physical or emotional resources for too long.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


Any malignant neoplasm, including carcinoma and sarcoma.


A constellation with right ascension 9 hours, declination 20°N. Abbreviated Canc. Also known as Crab.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


crab (June 21–July 22). [Astrology: Hall, 314]
See: Zodiac
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


any type of malignant growth or tumour, caused by abnormal and uncontrolled cell division: it may spread through the lymphatic system or blood stream to other parts of the body


1. Astronomy a small faint zodiacal constellation in the N hemisphere, lying between Gemini and Leo on the ecliptic and containing the star cluster Praesepe
2. Astrology
a. the fourth sign of the zodiac, symbol ♋, having a cardinal water classification and ruled by the moon. The sun is in this sign between about June 21 and July 22
b. a person born during a period when the sun is in this sign
3. tropic of Cancer See tropic
4. Astrology born under or characteristic of Cancer
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


Dreams are symbolic and not literal—most of the time. Cancer tumors in dreams represent a variety of unprocessed psychological and emotional materials that the dreamer may be obsessing on; they represent all of those things that bother, disturb, anger, or hurt us and that we never directly deal with or let go of. The dreamer’s mental, psychic, or emotional problems may be proliferating and infecting many areas of thought and function. You may be experiencing anxiety and fear as a result of a bad habit or a certain situation in your daily life. However, if you are very worried and cannot get it out of your mind, go for a physical. When is the last time you did that anyway? In more superstitious interpretations, dreaming of cancer may be considered a dream of the contrary, but also of warning!
Bedside Dream Dictionary by Silvana Amar Copyright © 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
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